A parody of a prime minister: Netanyahu offers his greatest capitulation yet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on Mar 23, 2018. (photo: Ofer Vaknin / Haaretz)

What we saw recently from Netanyahu is a tragedy for the state he heads.

By Yossi Verter | Haaretz | Apr 4, 2018

After promising to “get rid of them all” . . . the big mystery is why he made the decision in the first place to extend legal status to at least half of the 36,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Israel.

In the face of all of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s past capitulations, it was the most disgraceful, the most transparent. In comparison to all his reversals, it was the quickest, the most humiliating. The man had already taught us a chapter on zigzags and back-and-forths — in the story of the Western Wall egalitarian prayer space and the metal detectors at the Temple Mount, for example — but this time he outdid himself, in both speed and flexibility. A contortionist could only dream of having such a liquid backbone.

What we saw in the past 24 hours is a parody of a prime minister and a tragedy to the state he heads. There’s never been anything like it: The Israeli government signs an agreement with an international organization over an issue that is at the heart of the public debate and about which the government has a firm position. The prime minister declaims to his nation the details of the deal in a jubilant news briefing in the midst of the intermediate days of Passover, and within hours he backtracks.

The main question isn’t why Bibi folded. The answer to that is obvious: He underestimated the resistance he would face. From the right, Naftali Bennett, his longtime rival for the votes of his electoral base; from inside Likud, Gideon Sa’ar, who is working his way back into politics, was the first to break the omerta against disagreeing with the leader’s policy; and from his left, Moshe Kahlon.

These three, in addition to the bear hugs from the human rights and left-wing organizations that he detests, as well as from Meretz and Labor Party politicians, led him to race to his Facebook page Monday night to compose his letter of surrender. The measure was described as a “freeze” of the agreement.

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