Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Netanyahu will be remembered as Gilad Shalit's redeemer

(Yossi Verter-Haaretz).Benjamin Netanyahu reached his decision. After 30 months and 10 days as prime minister, Netanyahu faced his ministers - and before that his conscience, beliefs and ideology - and reached the most difficult decision of his second term as prime minister. The Shalit agreement is the most important deal of his life, and as things stand now - the most important decision of his present government. Netanyahu didn't start a war. Nor did he sign a peace treaty. And meanwhile he hasn't found a way to calm and pacify the social protest movement.

But he will forever be remembered as the man who brought back Gilad Shalit after more than five years of cruel imprisonment.

It has often been said that Netanyahu is a man of words and speeches, but not actions. This time he demonstrated true leadership. He decided on a course of action, for better or for worse, and, yes, the first part is better, the second might be worse. But in any case, as Israelis like to say, Netanyahu "acted like a man."

In last night's cabinet session, Netanyahu seemed exhausted. His makeup couldn't hide the bags under his eyes, the result of many sleepless nights, long nights of secret meetings and confidential consultations that probably did no good to his health. The decision he had to reach in the past few days is not one of the fun parts of his occupation. It's a stomach-churning decision that involves flexibility - or rather, complete capitulation, a definite U-turn and disavowal of his former declarations, speeches and pledges.

Netanyahu proved, and not for the first time, that he is more pragmatic than ideological.

Assuming the deal will actually come through, in the next few days the people of Israel will be overjoyed and share the happiness of the Shalit family.

It's still too early to assess how the deal might affect Netanyahu's political fortunes, and the stability of his government. One can assume that in the short term he will gain popularity. But what will happen afterward? One can't tell, but at least Gilad Shalit will be back with us, part of us, part of the Israeli collective experience, which never has one dull moment.