Bibi is back for the right reasons

Hillel Halkin writes in Welcome Back, Netanyahu explains Netanyahu’s comeback.

[..] But it’s more than just that. The Likud, and Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, have rebounded spectacularly in Israeli popular opinion because they have proved to be right on two major issues.

One of these is the economy. During Mr. Netanyahu’s three years as minister of finance between 2002 and 2005, when he was not without some justification accused by the Israeli Left of seeking to radically change Israeli society by means of economic “Thatcherism” or “Reaganism,” it was not yet clear what the outcome of his policies would be. Today, it is — and they have been, if anything, an even more spectacular success than Mr. Netanyahu predicted they would be. With unemployment sharply down, gross national product sharply up, the budget balanced for the first time in Israel’s history, the shekel one of the world’s stronger currencies, and Israel’s growth rate among the highest in the developed world, it is hard for Israelis to deny that Mr. Netanyahu, whatever his faults, was one of the best finance ministers — perhaps the best — that Israel ever had.

The second issue is the disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2005. As will be remembered, Mr. Netanyahu, after a long period of fence-sitting, came out against disengagement and resigned from Ariel Sharon’s cabinet because of it, thus helping to precipitate the split in the Likud that led Kadima’s creation.

At the time he seemed to many Israelis who agreed with him about other things to be wrong both strategically and tactically: Strategically, because the Gaza disengagement was in itself a good thing, and tactically, because splitting the Likud was a bad thing. And indeed, splitting the Likud was a bad thing. But so, it is necessary to say two years later, was disengagement. Those who were for it, like myself, were wrong. Those who were against it, like Mr. Netanyahu, were right.

And not only was he right, he was right for the right reasons — which is to say, not because he was ideologically opposed to any Israeli retreat from any part of “the land of Israel” (he wasn’t and isn’t), and not because he thought Israel should remain in Gaza forever (he didn’t and doesn’t), but because he thought the timing and manner of Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan was misconceived.

What sensible person, two years later, can quarrel with that? The facts speak for themselves. At great economic cost and at the price of a deep inner rift in Israeli society that still has not healed, 8,000 Jewish settlers were uprooted from their homes in return for supposed benefits, none of which has materialized.

Gaza has become more, not less, of a military menace to Israel; Palestinian politics and the Palestinian street have become more, not less, radicalized; Israel’s public image as an occupying country has not significantly improved in the world; and further unilateral disengagement in the West Bank as a possible way of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has turned out to be a chimera, in large measure because of the failure of what was supposed to be its Gazan first stage.

There are obvious ways in which Israel is worse off today for having evacuated the Gaza settlements; there are no obvious ways in which it is better off.

Good for Halkin for acknowledging all this. Good for Bibi for being right.

May 29, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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2 Comments / 2 Comments

  1. I agree with narvey! there seems to be a reality disconnect amongst most opinion givers in opular media or should I say commercial media. Fact the Israeli army is everywhere where there are civilians to protect. The army was in some parts of gaza due to having settlement and civilians to protect and nobody except the most viriluent antisemites would expect th IDF not to protect its civilian population. The army in gaza had some other strategic spinoffs like intelligence gathering. Much easier to get real time intel when you are on the inside. The army acted to some extent as buffer between areas that could reach sederot hindering most of the attempts so over 4000 kassams fell on gush katif settlements. but nobody left the settlements cause of kassams. Most settlers wre prepared to pay the human price to keep presence in gaza but they knew that they were the human and physical sheild of sederot and other neighboring settlements like the far left kibbutzim. All the settlements including sederot supported Sharon or at least beleived in what garbage he and mofaz were feeding the media and the public. To my mind what goes around comes around these jews aided and abetted the destruction of the very sheides that had for most part protected them all these years and now they are the ones taking it on the chin poetic justice I would say. BB oposed but stayed on in the govt. till his oportunistic resignation would not and could not effect the disengagement. BB has said over and over that he wants to negotiate peace with a real partner? if not land than what peace for peace? So BB still has adopted the lefts agenda with modifications which means same results just more theatre called give and take . We do the giving they do the taking and most of the israeli population will applaud as they will be fed lies and falshoods by the self interested politicians and a very compliant media and press. BB will be wined and dined in the worlds capitols he will read favorable press clippings due to his moderation and his turning on his right wing fantic constiuancy.BB has learned stragic lesson that he can be loved at home and fawned over internationaly, enjoy good press and applauded in circles where he dared never to tread. then after the next fiasco when he is thrown out on his rear end he will clean up again on the international speaking circuit, hell who knows he might write another book like a sequel to (Aplace under the Sun). Halkin is as left as they come no different than the shavits.

  2. Strangely, Halkin speaks of Netanyahu as he was, but not as he may now be when he states 3 things in essence about Netanyahu which Halkin feels makes Netanyahu the right person to lead Israel:

    1. Netanyahu’s growing support is not because of anything he has said or done, which is little or nothing in the last two years. Rather Netanyahu’s star is rising only because Olmert’s is falling. On that basis, it seems just about any politician opposed to Olmert’s policies would look better then Olmert.

    2. As Israel’s finance Minister until 2005, the policies he implemented though seemingly tough and harsh, have proven to be even more right then Netanyahu expected as Israel’s economy is now very strong.

    3. Netanyahu was right for the right reasons to stand against the Gaza disengagement, which Halkan says he personally was in favor of. Halkan however further notes with favor that Netanyahu is not ideologically opposed to any Israeli retreat from any part of “the land of Israel” including Gaza, but he believed that Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan was ill conceived and poorly timed. One gleans from that statement that Halkin does believe in the two state paradigm for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and he believes that Netanyahu does so as well, but at the right time and under the right circumstances, which Netanyahu of course has not explained.

    I am puzzled that a smart person like Hillel Halkin would put his hopes in and support behind Netanyahu before he knows what Netanyahu stands for now.

    Netanyahu has been relatively mild and perfunctory in his criticism of the Olmert government. Netanyahu also has said and done little to bring about elections to unseat the Olmert government which may well now be the most unpopular in history and he has said nothing about what he would do differently than the Olmert government and what he stands for now.

    Of course what Netanyahu might say about doing things differently or what he stands for now, could change once he is elected as did Sharon’s thinking for example on the Gaza disengagement which he was bitterly opposed to prior to being elected.

    In fact, Netanyahu during his election run that took him into the PM office to lead Israel had promised there would be no retreat from Hebron which would be Israeli lands. After his election, by virtue of American pressure, he gave Hebron over to the Palestinians in return for Palestinian promises that they would respect the sanctity and meaning Joseph’s Tomb had for Jews and Israelis, protect it and keep it secure. The very day the Hebron area was turned over to the Palestinians, Palestinian authorities stood idly by as a wildly angry mob of Palestinians proceeded to destroy Joseph’s Tomb.

    At least if Netanyahu would open his mouth and tell the Israeli electorate who he is, what he now believes in and what he intends to do to protect Israel and advance Israel’s interests if elected, the electorate will have a choice to vote for someone they know as opposed to voting for someone they knew and can only hope the person they knew is still that same person.

    It is very difficult to know, given Netanyahu’s reticence and silence and failure to take any action to unseat the Olmert government that seems far more occupied in trying to hold onto power rather then advancing and protecting Israel’s best interests, whether he really is the best person to lead Israel.

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