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Verbal gymnastics

A prime minister who is perpetually going in two directions spends a lot of time backtracking, disavowing and blaming

It’s not easy to be Prime Minister of Israel at the best of times (when were they?) but when the country accidentally says something positive about moving forward with peace talks that the governing party’s faithful don’t want to see, the only way to proceed is through the contortionist’s art of verbal gymnastics.

Now don’t get me wrong, politicians the world over are adept at this but it has never been more fun to watch than here in Israel where the Prime Minister is forced to consistently pretend that he wants to both annex the West Bank and bring about a peace deal with the Palestinians (you know, for the Americans).

The latest, most tantalizing example of this tongue twisting trauma is the hasty backtracking of a pretty nice joint statement with Poland which the Prime Minister’s Office authorized and has now decided to walk away from. The statement reads:

The two governments [Israel and Poland] agree about the urgent need for progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by way of direct negotiations without any preconditions.

It adds that both parties must refrain from “unilateral steps.”

Clearly this was just way too ‘out there’ for Israel to sign, but that’s OK because this isn’t a case of Bibi agreeing to something and then backing out at the last minute. It’s all down to these incompetent little aides of his who sit on – wait for it – the  National Security Council. Yes that’s right, apparently if you sit on Israel’s National Security Council you are qualified enough to be responsible for Israel’s security but not qualified to do other things like…speak.

All this happens while the Deputy Defense Minister is free to run around embarrassing himself and the country with misguided comments of his own. These put the Prime Minister in a bit of a bind because they don’t reflect ‘official’ Israeli policy, which theoretically is all about sitting down with Palestinians if only we were able. But perhaps they do reflect the actual stance of much of his governing coalition?

Regardless of what they reflect they are certainly popular within the Likud, where Danny Danon’s star is on the rise in a party that’s sinking. If only there was some kind of position in the government that gave responsibility to someone for going around the world and resolving certain diplomatic issues of this nature. Perhaps someone who could deal with…things foreign?

Of course there’s no superhero to do that, the closest we’re going to get is when Avigdor Liberman is inevitably acquitted of all the corruption charges he’s facing, save the most minor one so that everyone involved can save some face. And when he is ready to fill the seat he’s more liable to be smirking at a squirming Netanyahu from the background than to step in and help, because you know there’s nothing to gain from helping out the country.

John Kerry must be scratching his head wondering why he bothers bending over backwards to kick-start the peace process when even a  joint statement is too much for Bibi to handle. I wonder whether the Prime Minister could take responsibility for making a bad cup of coffee without feeling the need to blame it on one of his aides.

This time he has blamed the people he trusts to keep the country secure. Who will he blame next?

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada