Tag: Shaul Mofaz

NETANYAHU’S “BIG BANG”: FORMATION OF UNITY GOV’T A “GENUINE OPPORTUNITY” FOR REFORM

OUT OF SELF-INTEREST, GENUINE OPPORTUNITY
David Horovitz

Times of Israel, May 8, 2012

The cynicism that greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition agreement with Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz Tuesday is easily understood. Mofaz has made a gold-medal-worthy sprint from bitter foe to warm ally of the prime minister. One minute he was calling Netanyahu a liar and vowing never to negotiate with him. The next, they were Best Friends Forever, or at least until Netanyahu tires of him.…

Most of the analysts’ criticism has been heaped on Mofaz. Netanyahu achieved stability at almost no price—a single ministerial position for Mofaz when, three years ago, a partnership with Tzipi Livni’s…Kadima would have cost him half the seats at the cabinet table. Netanyahu brought 28 more seats into his coalition, but won’t have to compromise his agenda in the slightest to Kadima’s (insofar as it has one). He was able to stave off a confrontation with Likud hardliners over the composition of a Knesset slate for elections he never wanted. A win-win-win for him.

Mofaz, however, sold Kadima “like a stall-holder in Mahane Yehuda (vegetable market) minutes before Sabbath-eve closing time,” declared Channel 2’s political analyst Amit Segal. “It’s a complete capitulation.… The end for Mofaz.… The beginning of the end for Kadima.” Segal may well be right about that. If the great big new coalition achieves anything, it is the prime minister who will reap the political benefits when Israel does go to the polls next year. If all we see is 18 months of immobility…Mofaz will get the blame.

And yet the Netanyahu-Mofaz partnership really could produce change, if its protagonists follow through on their fine rhetoric.

It is hard to believe the alliance will have any great effect on peacemaking with the Palestinians, notwithstanding Tuesday’s appeals by both men to the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table.… Likewise, Mofaz’s presence at the cabinet table will have no impact on policy regarding Iran. If Netanyahu believes the Jewish State faces imminent annihilation, he will act. Until then, he won’t. Period.

And while Mofaz has made a transparently expedient attempt to recast himself as a champion of social justice, Kadima’s coalition presence is not going to spark a radical remake of government economic policy. Mass social protest might do that. Moaning from Mofaz will not.

Where promised electoral reform is concerned, however, progress in the next 18 months is conceivable—hard to believe, but not impossible. Netanyahu and Mofaz could take advantage of the new, rare marginalization of the smaller parties to change the system. The public wants a more accountable process for electing and rejecting its leaders; the politicians want a more manageable one.

But perhaps the greatest opportunity for real change with this new coalition is over legislation to require national service for all—notably including the ultra-Orthodox community. The national consensus is that the current situation—where a substantial part of the Jewish demographic is subsidized by the rest; where the burden of protecting the country is unfairly distributed; and where the norm of a mass of Jewish scholars studying rather than working full-time represents a stark departure from authentic Orthodoxy—is untenable and must change.

Here is an issue with wide public resonance. Here is an issue vital to Israel’s economic and security well-being. Here is an issue where reform is most emphatically in both the national interest and the narrow interest of our two new leaders. Here is an issue where progress would utterly silence the cynics.

REFORM TIME
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2012

At a press conference to announce their coalition agreement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and incoming Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz articulated four central goals. They plan to pass legislation that will obligate ultra-Orthodox yeshiva student to perform military or national service; they hope to pass a two-year fiscal budget; they want to advance “responsible” peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The two men also vowed to advance electoral reform aimed at fostering political stability.

The incorporation of Kadima to create the broadest coalition government in Israeli history, with 94 MKs, presents a unique opportunity. As early as October 1948, just months after the creation of the state, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, called to change the electoral system. About 10 bills calling for regional elections were presented to the Knesset between 1958 and 1988. However, all such attempts at reform were torpedoed by small parties that were members of consecutive government coalitions—especially religious parties that stood to lose the most.

These parties presently take advantage of the fundamental instability and chronic divisions that characterize our extreme proportional representation government, with its relatively low 2-percent threshold for election to the Knesset.… These sorts of governments tend to encourage the creation of political parties—such as the Pensioners Party, religious parties or Shinui—with radical or narrow agendas that represent only a fraction of the population or have fleeting popularity. Government coalitions are created by pulling together a patchwork of diverse factions. These governments are plagued with divisions and instability. In many cases, a single party can bring down a government, giving it inordinate leveraging power.…

It should come as no surprise that the average duration of Israeli governments between 2000 and 2009 was less than three years, much shorter than the world average. This has very bad ramifications for long-term government planning.… Now with a large, stable coalition, Netanyahu and Mofaz can act where previous political leaders failed.…

The benefits of regional elections, at least for some of the Knesset’s seats, are clear. Leaders with strong grassroots backing, chosen for their unique talents, pragmatism and ability to get things done, will be brought into politics. These men and women will be obligated to represent their constituency, not the party hacks.

Raising the threshold is another important step that should be taken. Until 1996, the two largest political parties combined consistently had more than 70 Knesset seats. Since 1999, the two largest political parties have had fewer than half the seats in the Knesset.…

Another reform that should be considered is increasing the number of Knesset seats. According to data presented by the Israel Democracy Institute, the ratio of MKs to citizens in Israel is one to 59,000, higher than in any comparatively sized European country.

The unprecedented size of the new government coalition and its consequent stability provides a unique opportunity to institute much-needed electoral reforms. We hope that Netanyahu and Mofaz will take advantage of this situation to help ensure that future governments enjoy similar stability.

UNITY GOV’T—OPPORTUNITIES AND DANGERS
Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2012

The dramatic coup by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz in forming a national unity government and setting aside elections until October 2013 has dazzled the nation.… In truth, beyond personalities and ambitions, there was no ideological obstacle preventing the Likud and Kadima, both essentially pragmatic (and opportunistic) centrist political parties, from forming a unity bloc.…

The vast majority of Israelis will undoubtedly welcome this move which, if managed effectively, could finally overcome the great divide which has so hurt the nation since the era of the Oslo Accords. The creation of a centrist government of 94 lawmakers also provides the possibility to tackle a host of major political, social and identity issues that were relegated to the back burner because of the excessive veto power of small hardline or one-dimensional parties which have until now controlled the balance of power in the Knesset.

It could make Netanyahu one of the most powerful prime ministers Israel has ever had.… It will also immensely improve his global standing and relationship with [US] President Barack Obama and the Americans in relation to the Iranian threat and Palestinian intransigency.

But Netanyahu is also taking an enormous risk. He was a virtual certainty to win the election, but if he mishandles this unity move, or due to time limitations fails to convince Israelis that the new government is determined to reform the system, this move could represent an end to his flourishing political career. It will require major legislation within nine to 12 months—a daunting but certainly not impossible challenge.

For Kadima and its leader Shaul Mofaz it represents a reprieve, because the party would have collapsed in an election, which explains its lack of concern for cabinet portfolios. Up to two-thirds of the sitting Kadima MKs would have been sent home if elections took place in September. Mofaz now has the opportunity—if he performs well—to regain the support of the electorate or to ultimately merge with the Likud.

The other beneficiary is Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, who now emerges as a genuine leader of the opposition and may concentrate on social and economic issues, and possibly at a later stage still join the government.

In my opinion there are five crucial issues which Netanyahu and Mofaz must overcome if they are to win over the public.

• The first could be the most crucial, because it will set the tone for the new government: to restore the concept of cabinet responsibility.

The worst manifestations of dysfunctionality in recent Israeli governments were the tendency of individual ministers and coalition parties to act as though they represented independent fiefdoms rather than being responsible members of government. Netanyahu must ensure that once the government adopts a position, any minister who feels obliged to make a critical statement must resign.

• The second issue, which seems to have been agreed upon in advance, is to introduce the long overdue and desperately needed electoral reform designed to stabilize the government and to weaken the power of splinter groups to veto the will of the people.

• The third issue, also apparently agreed upon in principle, will undoubtedly prove to be the most challenging: the desperate need to review issues of religion and state, which could never previously be dealt with rationally, due to the opposition of the haredi parties controlling the balance of power.

The replacement for the “Tal Law” and the introduction of a form of national service for all Israeli citizens—Arabs as well as haredim—must be implemented if the national rage and bitterness generated by the burgeoning draft exemptions is to be overcome.

There are other religious issues such as the role of the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts in relation to marriage and conversions, and the imperative of ensuring that future generations of ultra-Orthodox Israelis are equipped with the education required to enable them to earn a livelihood and not remain lifelong recipients of welfare.

This will require courage on the part of both Netanyahu and Mofaz, both of whom seek to nurture the political support of the religious parties. If they merely introduce cosmetic reforms it will lead to a massive backlash at the next elections and provide strength for opposition parties.

• Fourth, the government must continue along the path of economic reform, especially as the European economic meltdown is likely to affect Israel over the next 12 months. The main focus should be to continue breaking the excessive control of a few large groups which inhibit competition in the market.

• Finally, there is a need to initiate an ongoing review of the education system which currently encourages tribalization of society in lieu of cementing national unity. Whilst the haredi and Arab sectors require considerable autonomy, it is imperative that in the long term all streams be obliged to implement a core curriculum which incorporates minimum standards for secular subjects and in which an atmosphere of national volunteerism is nurtured.

Theoretically, these objectives could all be achieved in a limited time and would enjoy the enthusiastic support of most Israelis.…

NO IRAN DISSENSION WITHIN ISRAELI COALITION
Jonathan S. Tobin

Contentions, May 9, 2012

With the dust settling from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s brilliant political maneuver in which he vastly expanded his coalition and his power, the question remains what will he do with it in the next year? While Israelis seem more interested in domestic political implications of the move, not surprisingly, most foreign observers are focused on the impact of the new coalition on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat. Some of Netanyahu’s frustrated critics are holding on to the hope that somehow the addition of Kadima head Shaul Mofaz will moderate the prime minister’s stand on the issue. But this is not only a misreading of Mofaz but of Netanyahu’s position.

As the prime minister demonstrated [yesterday] in his meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, far from Mofaz’s entry into the Cabinet acting as a restraint on him, the creation of a government that can count on nearly 80 percent of the Knesset means that when Netanyahu speaks now there can be no doubt that he represents a strong consensus within his country on the issue. By bringing Mofaz as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to speak to Ashton, Netanyahu demonstrated that there is across-the-board support for his demands that Iran’s nuclear program be stopped dead in its tracks.

Ashton, a virulent critic of Israel who has been ceded control of the P5+1 talks with Iran by President Obama, may have intended her visit to Israel as an opportunity to mend fences so as to allow her to continue the diplomatic minuet she is dancing with the Islamist regime to continue unimpeded by Israeli actions. But Netanyahu used the meeting to lay down the guidelines for the upcoming negotiations in Baghdad. As Haaretz reported:

“During the meeting, the Israelis presented a rigid set of demands for the Iranians.… Netanyahu and the three ministers told Ashton that Israel’s position leading up to the Baghdad talks is that the talks will be considered as progress only if they would yield an Iranian guarantee—with a clear timetable—to halt uranium enrichment, to remove all enriched uranium out of Iranian soil, and to dismantle the underground enrichment facility in Fordo, which is near Qom.”

In doing so, Netanyahu is attempting to box in the Western negotiators who have given every indication that they will be happy to allow the Iranians to drag out the talks and would be satisfied with a deal that would leave their nuclear program intact. These terms were delivered to Ashton, but the real audience for Israel’s position is in Washington.

Three years ago, President Obama may have entertained hopes about toppling Netanyahu, but now he is faced with the fact that the Israeli is stronger than ever. Though fears about a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran are probably exaggerated—Netanyahu would almost certainly not contemplate such an option while Western talks with Iran are ongoing —the new coalition will force the administration to stop listening to dissident Israeli voices carping at Netanyahu for his tough stance on Iran.

As Haaretz also notes, the idea that Mofaz disagrees with the prime minister on Iran is a misperception fueled by Israeli political maneuvering: “According to a report published by Israeli newspaper Maariv on Wednesday, several officials who took part in the coalitional negotiations between Mofaz and Netanyahu said the two are ‘coordinated’ over the issue of Iran and are ‘of one mind’ when it comes to stopping Iran’s nuclear program.”

Netanyahu knows Iran has no intention of giving up its nuclear chips in the current talks. He now has a broad government that will back him on any decision to take action. That places more pressure than ever on Obama not to allow the U.S. to be dragged into an unsatisfactory deal by Ashton that will have negative political repercussions at home and might force Israel to act on its own. Though the president may hope to kick the Iranian can down the road until after the fall U.S. elections, Netanyahu’s coup may have made it more difficult for the president to do so.

ELECTIONEERING: “UNNECESSARY” AND “UNHELPFUL,” OR WILL NEW PLAYERS SHAKE UP ISRAEL’S POLITICAL ARENA?

On Wednesday, Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) submitted a bill to dissolve Israel’s parliament, raising the prospect of an early election to take place on September 4.

 

The bill is expected to be approved by Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday, which will accelerate the legislative process and put the bill to a preliminary Knesset vote on Monday. The bill’s first, second and third readings are likely to take place on Tuesday; the last day of the 18th Knesset is expected to be on Wednesday, May 9, during which the final legislation will be approved.

 

Sources in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office say Binyamin Netanyahu would like to hold an election as soon as possible, to take advantage of his Likud Party’s commanding lead in public-opinion polls and a fractured opposition.

 

Meanwhile, 62 percent of Israelis do not think an election is necessary, and only 27% say an early vote will be for the good of the country.

 

ELECTIONEERING
Editorial

Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2012

If Israeli voters—the onlookers in our political arena—paid discerning attention, they would have noticed a surreal spectacle Tuesday. Just as one political aspirant—Yair Lapid—entered the fray, another contender—Tzipi Livni—proclaimed her exit. It almost looked synchronized, as if one hyped political wunderkind replaced the other neatly and instantly, leaving no gap in the overnight-star category.

In many ways Lapid and Livni seem to be cut from the same cloth. They subscribe to no clear creed or set of values. Indeed, it’s hard to pin down what they stand for. Though they profusely laud their self-professed principles, they rarely, if ever, elaborate. The only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that they are ideologically pliable and that they tout this as an asset rather than as a liability. It’s as if articles of faith are undesirable in our present-day political discourse.…

No wonder the hottest speculation at the moment is whether Livni will join Lapid and whether the twosome will run in tandem. Such guesswork presents compelling testimony to the trifling tidbits that preoccupy us. The big picture and undiminished existential dangers pale before headline-grabbing and ratings-generating inconsequentialities.

This is perhaps why our society rushes headlong into early elections, without consideration for the price and ramifications. No government in recent years has lasted a full term (though the present one did better than most). Untold sums go to waste for party financing and mounting costly campaigns more often than democracy mandates.…

But worst of all is the warping of our national agenda at times of increasing peril. Instead of focusing on our collective self-preservation, we’re too frequently gripped by inordinately prolonged campaigns that drag out for at least six months.…

When the superfluous electioneering din dies down, we’ll be left with all that weighed heavy upon us previously—the threat of a nuclear Iran, Palestinian pressures, the perfidy of the Arab Spring, our frayed socioeconomic fabric, the real estate bubble, the cashed-strapped educational framework, health system, police force, public transport networks, etc. None of this will go away.

And, last but hardly least, who will be charged with tending to all the above? In all likelihood it will be another fragile coalition, concocted from yet another ragtag assortment of factional splinters, each of which will extract all it can as the price for its cooperation.

In other words, the odds are that we will be back just where we now are.

NETANYAHU, LIKUD STAND TO GAIN FROM EARLY ELECTIONS
Jonathan Spyer
Pajamas Media, May 2, 2012

Israel will have an election on September 4, and polls indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party will be re-elected to lead the government.

A recent poll by Yediot Ahronot and the Dahaf Institute suggests Likud would become the largest party, increasing its presence in the 120-member Knesset from 27 seats to about 30. The same poll shows the opposition Kadima Party, which recently chose former general Shaul Mofaz as its new leader, would suffer a drastic fall from 28 seats to only 10.

The splits among Likud’s other rivals also show a strengthening of the party. Labor, which has embraced social issues, would grow from eight seats to 18, while a new centrist party created by former journalist Yair Lapid called Yesh Atid (There’s a Future) would take 11 seats. [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebrman’s] Yisrael Beiteinu party would shrink from 16 seats to 13.

If this poll proves accurate, Netanyahu will have a variety of options when it comes to forming a new coalition. Neither Kadima nor Labor nor Lapid’s party have ruled out joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. The prime minister might choose to construct a center-right government or a right-religious coalition of the type that currently exists, depending on the parliamentary arithmetic and his own preference.…

Contrary to frequent foreign perceptions, Netanyahu’s governing style is characterized in practice by extreme caution and a desire not to move far beyond the existing consensus. The last three years have witnessed an unfamiliar quiet on the security front and an economic stability currently rivaled by few countries in the West. A solid centrist consensus of Israelis has concluded that—for the moment—there is no real partner on the splintered Palestinian political scene for making diplomatic progress, and that there are deep concerns regarding the chaotic neighborhood emerging in the wake of the Arab upheavals of 2011. Iran and its ambitions are also a matter of grave import.

In such an environment, it is not hard to see why a pragmatic hawk of Netanyahu’s stripe looks like a “safe pair of hands” to many voters.…

ISRAEL GOES TO ELECTIONS
Barry Rubin

Rubin Reports, May 2, 2012

Israel is going to have elections on September 4 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly win by a big margin. Understanding why explains a lot about the country that people think they know the most about but in fact comprehend the least.…

One key element in this equation is that the country is doing pretty well. True, it faces serious security problems but that’s the norm for Israel. Indeed, with no other trusted leader on the horizon, Netanyahu is the one most trusted to manage that dangerous situation.

True, too, there have been real social problems due largely to the gap between low salaries and high living costs that especially hurts younger people and provoked protests last year.… [However], Israel’s economy is doing [relatively well], including low unemployment, low inflation, and manageable state debt. In contrast to other Western economies, Israel’s government has avoided high government spending, unsustainable subsidies, and huge debt.

A third factor is the total fractionalization of the opposition. Indeed, one might speak of Netanyahu and the seven dwarfs. Aside from Kadima there are three other mid-sized parties that take votes from the same potential constituency and quarrel among themselves:

-Kadima, the main opposition party which is vaguely centrist, is so discredited by its former, failed leader Tzipi Livni that it will not be saved by its new head…from losing [upwards of] 20 of its current 28 seats.

-Labor, which has reinvented itself as a social issues party and has an untested [new] leader, [Shelly Yachimovich]…might come in a distant second.

-A new centrist party [led by Yair Lapid]…pushes the same secular centrism that has repeatedly produced one-election parties before.

-Israel Our Home, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, has a solid base among immigrants from the former Soviet Union but by that very fact—and given the fact that Lieberman is widely disliked and close to indictment—should hold but not expand its base.

It is ironic to think that the Obama Administration, whose ignorance of Israel and its politics cannot possibly be overestimated, thought it was going to bring down Netanyahu and replace him with a more pliable Livni. In fact, by its periodic bashing of Israel and ham-handed Middle East policy promoting Israel-hating Islamists, Obama unintentionally mobilized domestic support for Netanyahu.

Speaking about myths about Israel and Israeli politics here are corrections for some of the main ones:

-In contrast to the prevailing myth abroad, Netanyahu is no longer a “right-winger” in the way he was 15 years ago. He has moved into the center, a key factor explaining his success.

-Contrary to others who haven’t followed events closely, Israelis do not believe they have a peace option at present, with the Palestinians uninterested in a deal and Egypt, Iran, Turkey, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and Syria in an all-out hostile mode.

-Despite claims that Obama has proven his support for Israel, among Israelis—even if some think Obama is a nice guy—there is no faith in US backing given the Obama Administration’s views and actions.…

THE LESSON OF LIVNI’S RESIGNATION:
DON’T BELIEVE MEDIA REPORTING ON ISRAEL
Evelyn Gordon

Contentions, May 1, 2012

Former opposition leader Tzipi Livni’s resignation from the Knesset [on Tuesday] offers a good opportunity to reflect on just how unreliable mainstream media reporting about Israel often is.

Just two months ago, Newsweek and The Daily Beast put Livni on their lists of “150 women who shake the world,” describing her as “one of the most powerful women in [Israel].” Yet while that was undoubtedly true a few years ago, by the time the Newsweek list came out in March 2012, Livni was almost universally regarded as a has-been even by her erstwhile supporters.

In an editorial published later that month, for instance, Haaretz mourned that in the three years since her “praiseworthy” decision not to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in 2009, “she has not missed a single opportunity to make a mistake: She did not function as an opposition leader, she did not offer an alternative to the government’s policies and she did not lead her party wisely and set clear policy.” In a poll published just four days after the Newsweek list, the public ranked Livni dead last among 16 leading Israeli political figures.… And three weeks later, Livni’s own party unceremoniously dumped her: She lost Kadima’s leadership race by a landslide 25-point margin. Now, her political career in ruins, she is even quitting the Knesset.

That Livni was a has-been by March 2012 was obvious to anyone who had even cursory familiarity with Israel. Thus, either Newsweek and The Daily Beast were completely ignorant of the Israeli reality, or they deliberately disregarded the facts in order to promote their own agenda: Livni, after all, is a darling of the international media, because as Newsweek said in its profile, she is “a steadfast proponent of the peace process.…” Regardless of which explanation is true, the bottom line is the same: Their reporting on Israel can’t be trusted.

Nor is this problem unique.… [Just this week], The New York Times deci[ded] to play up former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s [recent] verbal attack on Netanyahu…as something that “may add to recent pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to tack to the left.” [But] anyone with any knowledge of Israel knows that Olmert has virtually no political support, being widely viewed as both corrupt and incompetent.…

The media’s job is supposed to be informing the public. But when it comes to Israel, it often seems to prefer misinforming the public. By portraying…Livni and Olmert as important and influential politicians, media outlets make it impossible for readers to understand the real Israel—the one that elected Netanyahu in 2009 and seems likely to re-elect him this fall.…

BIBI’S POLITICAL INHERITANCE
Yossi Klein Halevi

Tablet, May 1, 2012

Benzion Netanyahu, scholar of the Inquisition, secretary to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and father of Bibi, was the last of the purist Revisionist Zionists. He carried Revisionism’s bitter battles against the Zionist left to the end of his 102 years. And his complicated relationship with his son tells the story of the successes and failures of the Revisionist movement.

Through the 1930s and ‘40s, Revisionist and left-wing Zionists argued vehemently about the nature of the future state and how to create it. Labor Zionists were socialists, Revisionists capitalists. Labor cooperated with the British mandate; the Revisionists revolted. And Labor accepted the division of the land of Israel, while Revisionists opposed every partition plan, including the first partition in 1922, which created the Kingdom of Jordan. The future state, argued Jabotinsky, would need ample borders in which to accommodate millions of future Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

The most profound debate between Revisionism and Labor concerned the nature of the Zionist transformation of the Jew. All Zionists agreed that the Jewish character had been distorted by exile; the question was what aspects of that personality needed to be changed. Labor advocated a total overhaul: a secular socialist Jew, freed of piety and economic marginality, a farmer and a worker. Revisionism, though, had only one demand on the new Jew: Become a soldier. Jabotinsky didn’t care whether Jews were Orthodox or atheist, workers or businessmen—so long as they knew how to defend themselves.

A key component to self-defense is the ability to perceive threat. And with the rise of Nazism, Revisionism’s insistence on Jewish power became a war against Jewish complacency and self-delusion. In speeches across Eastern Europe, Jabotinsky urged young Jews to learn to shoot and prepare to get out. Es Brent a fire, he warned, a fire is burning. Destroy the exile before the exile destroys you. Jabotinsky’s opponents mocked him as a fear-monger.

Of all the divides separating Revisionism and Labor, the failure of the mainstream Zionist movement to sense the approaching abyss and attempt to rescue Europe’s Jews remained perhaps the most bitter. Zionism, the antidote to Jewish wishful thinking, had, under Labor, been guilty of that worst Diaspora character flaw, and at the worst moment in Jewish history.

In the early years of the state, [therefore],…what Revisionism retained most urgently wasn’t so much ideology but sensibility. Jewish naivete, Revisionists insisted, had been the indispensable partner of the Final Solution. That is what kept the victims from listening to Jabotinsky and fleeing in time. The Nazis played on Jewish hope, reassuring their victims through a series of linguistic deceptions that ended with the showers. What remained of Revisionism was its 11th commandment: Don’t be a fool.

Then came the Six Day War. Suddenly territorial maximalism was relevant again. The new 1967 borders weren’t the same borders Revisionists had dreamed of, but they were close enough. History had compensated the Jews for its territorial losses. Not one inch, vowed Jabotinsky’s heir, Menachem Begin.

Ten years later, in 1977, came the moment the Revisionists had longed for and almost despaired would ever come. After 29 years in opposition—along with two decades in opposition before statehood—Begin finally rose to power. And then, almost immediately, came the shattering. When Begin agreed to cede all of Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt, one of his strongest critics from the right was Benzion Netanyahu.…

But the cruelest blow to Benzion came from his son. A political rift between them opened during the election campaign of 1996, when Bibi declared that he would accept the Oslo Accords, while insisting on Palestinian reciprocity. Benzion was outraged. Bibi tried to explain that his endorsement of Oslo was only tactical. Benzion countered: What begins as tactical ends in a betrayal of principle.

Benzion was right. In his second term Bibi became the first Likud leader to accept the principle of a two-state solution, the possible withdrawal from the second bank of the Jordan. While most of the international community missed the significance of Bibi’s historic concession, his father surely did not. Under Prime Minister Netanyahu, Revisionist ideology was buried in a state funeral. Yet even as he rejected the practicality of his father’s territorial maximalism, Bibi remained faithful to his father’s sensibility.…

It is precisely that dread of Jewish self-deception that has defined the politics of Benzion’s son. Don’t believe the Palestinian leaders when they speak about peace in English and jihad in Arabic, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned in his first term. And do believe the mullahs when they threaten to destroy the Jewish state, he now warns in his second term.

The war between the heirs of Labor and the heirs of Revisionism is no longer over ideology, but sensibility. Labor won the debate over partition: A strong majority of Israelis backs a two-state solution. Yet that same majority wants the Labor ideology of partition to be implemented by the Revisionist sensibility of wariness. And that is what Benzion’s son has committed himself to do. Not to preserve greater Israel at all cost, but to negotiate a safe partition if that becomes possible. A partition without wishful thinking.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has forever changed Israel’s political map and, in so doing, helped prepare the way for an eventual agreement with the Palestinians. That is not the victory Benzion hoped for. But it is, in its painful way, a vindication of the politics of realism he taught his son.