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Contentions

Bibi Sworn In

Bibi’s equivalent of an inaugural address — his speech to the Knesset at the ceremony for the swearing in of the new government — just ended. It began with a call for unity – of government (embodied by his new cabinet, which Netanyahu’s opponents call a “right-wing government joined by Labor”) and of purpose.

Further on, he talked at length about the challenges to Israel’s relations with Arabs. Undeterred by any concerns over sounding old-fashioned or blunt, he spoke plainly about “radical Islam” and the danger it poses to Israel and the world. He reiterated that Israel doesn’t want to rule the Palestinians; that Israelis have no desire to be occupiers. But he didn’t shy away from naming the obvious obstacle to lasting peace: the lack of a credible Palestinian partner with whom to settle a final status agreement. We will work toward peace, the new PM has promised, but he also reminded his audience that all attempts at finding shortcuts to the desired outcome have thus far ended in disaster.

As I was listening to his speech, I was amazed that there are people still portraying his message as “extreme” or “radical.” It could be safely characterized as mainstream. Any supporters drawn to a bolder, more revolutionary, Netanyahu might have been disappointed. Netanyahu — political maneuvering and coalition-opposition games aside — was sworn in espousing a message very few Israelis would object to: consensual, pragmatic, and sober.

“What’s the headline,” a TV anchor asked? “No headlines,” the political correspondent said. The new Netanyahu doesn’t want to be headlined. He doesn’t give many interviews, and when he does, he doesn’t try to amaze, or enrage, or shock. Headlines, Netanyahu seems to have learned, can be disruptive.


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