Netanyahu warns of lessons learnt from history

By Anshel Pfeffer, April 1, 2010

Binyamin Netanyahu is the son of a historian. Three weeks ago, hundreds of guests celebrated Benzion Netanyahu's 100th birthday.

In an emotional speech, the PM extolled his father's ability to foresee major historical events, from the Shoah to the attack on New York by Islamic terrorists.

"I learnt from you to look into the future," said Bibi to his father.

In his own speech, the wise old historian spoke of the future and warned of the terrible consequences if Iran is allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

Mr Netanyahu inherited from his father a historical perspective and can justifiably claim to have foreseen events and trends on the local, regional and global scale himself. H

e wrote a book on the threat that Islamic terror would pose to the West while still a youthful ambassador to the UN.

As head of the opposition in the mid- 1990s he warned of the inherent weaknesses in the Oslo process long before its collapse, and skilfully exploited the "Americanisation" of the Israeli public before anyone else understood it to achieve his election victory in 1996.

As PM and later finance minister, he put into motion several processes that safeguarded the Israeli economy from the global recession.

His success in predicting events, for which he feels he never received due credit, is at the base of his fervent belief, identical to that of his father, that Israel has one overriding concern right now: the Iranian threat. Everything else is merely a hindrance and no one can tell him otherwise.

But Mr Netanyahu's view of the world is also formed by staunch ideology, also inherited from Benzion, that Israel should hold on to all the land captured in 1967 and that most Arabs will never reconcile to the Jewish state.

He was forced in his first term as PM to hand over most of Hebron and other parts of the West Bank to the PA and to pay lip-service in his current term to the concept of a Palestinian state, but his heart was never in it. He really believes in building in east Jerusalem.

Still, his arguments have failed to convince the Israeli public, which according to polls has gradually come over to the notion of a two-state solution; the media in Israel and abroad, which, despite his polished appearances, continues to regard him as a hardliner; and above all the two American presidents with whom he has dealt, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Having lived, studied and worked there for many years, Mr Netanyahu believes he understands America, as well - if not better - than its own leaders. Here again, his perspective is linked to ideology.

His is firmly rooted in the Republican and neo-conservative camps, yet another reason for Mr Clinton and Mr Obama to dislike him.

This accumulation of hostility, from the White House, the media and the Israeli establishment, has engendered a permanent sense of siege, a bunker mentality that fosters suspicion, hesitation and, too often, panicky moves.

Mr Netanyahu's loyal circle of aides is telling him to stand up to the American dictation.

Will he listen to them, and to his historical certainty that he will be proven right? Or will he listen to Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and other voices, mainly in the defence establishment, who tell him that for Israel to confront Iran, it needs to do whatever it takes to have America by its side?

Last updated: 12:39pm, April 1 2010