Friday, February 4, 2011

Aluf Benn/ In midterm, Netanyahu's second chance of Bringing Change

(Aluf Benn-Haaretz).Netanyahu is being forced to navigate Israel through the storm. The crisis across the border caught Netanyahu in midterm, Unexpected changes inherently generate anxiety, and the public looks to its leaders for reassurance and direction. The era of revolutions in the Middle East could be Netanyahu's chance to foment change and to apply what he has ostensibly learned from the biographies of Winston Churchill and Theodor Herzl.

Netanyahu's confidants insist that he wants to achieve a settlement with the Palestinians and that he is disappointed at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to negotiate with him. They talk about policy plans Netanyahu forged with Barak and about secret missions by attorney Yitzhak Molcho in search of a diplomatic breakthrough.

Netanyahu has a dual interest, external and internal, to advance on the Palestinian track. Israel's international isolation is increasing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who this week visited Israel, urged Netanyahu to advance the political process. Israel's strategic ally Hosni Mubarak is about to leave the stage. U.S. President Barack Obama, who abandoned the region after his failure to mediate between Netanyahu and Abbas, this week reappeared as the prophet of democracy and change, urging Mubarak to resign immediately. If Obama's call is indeed met, the U.S. president will return to the Israeli-Palestinian arena, too, and will hand Netanyahu the bill.

Domestically, Avigdor Lieberman has usurped the leadership of the ideological right from Netanyahu. If he is to return to the political center, Netanyahu needs a political breakthrough that will steal the agenda from Kadima leader Tzipi Livni. Netanyahu is still the dominant figure in the political arena, with Lieberman fearing a potential criminal indictment and Barak having lost his party backing.

The prime minister has received a second chance - another opportunity to sit for the leadership matriculation exam, as it were. This is his chance to show that he did not return to power only for the limo and the home on Balfour Street.