Give Bibi a chance


Israel’s most respected political columnist Nahum Barnea says Bibi deserves a chance… but says the challenges are immense. And, in the end, much will depend on the Obama administration.

First, the economy:

From its first day, the Netanyahu government will contend with two major fronts: One is the economic crisis. Those who listened to Netanyahu’s statements on economic issues in recent weeks were very impressed by his command of the terms, his familiarity with what’s going on in other countries, and his confidence in his ability to overcome, by himself, the crisis at record speed. The solutions he is talking about, topped by tax cutbacks, are less convincing. Netanyahu is much less determined than what he is conveying to the public.

The truth is that the confusion is global. There isn’t one leader in the world who knows how long the crisis will last and what to do to make the recovery faster. Never before have governments thrown so many billions into the economy while praying that the bank gods show mercy and that the storm will pass. In terms of the Israeli economy, what Obama and Bernanke will do is more meaningful than what our local economic leaders do. Netanyahu’s instinct will push him to cut down the budget, decrease regulation, and nurture the free market. He will be tested on his ability to successfully do the opposite of what he preached for as a finance minister.

On the diplomatic/security front:

The second front to be faced by the government is diplomatic and military. Seemingly, there is government consensus: Netanyahu, Barak, and Lieberman do not believe there is a chance to secure peace agreements. However, the conclusion each one of them drew from this is different. As Barak does not believe anyone, he is willing to talk to anyone. He believes in limited understandings that would allow for security calm between violent rounds.

Meanwhile, Lieberman’s rhetoric aims for elimination. If Iran is building a nuclear bomb, the solution is to bomb Tehran. If Egypt insults us, the solution is to bomb the Aswan dam. If Hamas fires missiles, we need to topple Hamas’ regime in Gaza. If Barak believes in limited understandings, Lieberman believes in removing threats.

Netanyahu is focused on the Iranian threat, which he views as the essence of everything. Based on his worldview, Israel will not be able to coexist alongside a nuclear Iran. If the international pressure on Iran fails, the US needs to be convinced to act military, or alternately, Israel needs to prepare for independent military action. …

Netanyahu will look up to Obama’s America: Perhaps salvation shall come from there. There are two questions here: Whether Obama will be able to subject his agenda to Israel’s, and whether Netanyahu will be willing to accommodate the American president on a series of issues, topped by the negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu will be able to draw out the negotiations; it is uncertain whether he will be able to fool his rightist partners.

Is the second time a charm?

Netanyahu was given a rare gift in politics: A second chance as prime minister. Barak too was given a gift: A second chance as defense minister. Lieberman, meanwhile, has been given a priceless opportunity to leave the empty slogans that brought him here behind him. The Netanyahu government’s kitchen-cabinet will be the second chance club.

Netanyahu probably assumes that there will be no third chance. He will do everything he can in order not to fail. He deserves a chance: Perhaps this time it will work out for him.

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