Imagine you are Benjamin Netanyahu and you have just really, really messed up.
You started a war with Hamas with a lie about the murder of three Israeli teenagers and got caught out; the real motive, an attempt to sabotage a Hamas-Fatah alliance, soon became clear and it exposed you as someone more interested in keeping your opponents divided than seeking peace.
You fought the war with exceptional brutality, killing hundreds of children and civilians, leveling whole streets and bombarding hospitals and United Nations shelters with indiscriminate artillery fire.
You misjudged the caliber and skill of your military opponents and lost over sixty young Israeli soldiers whose parents may not be so forgiving when they learn, as they eventually will, that their sons died in the cause of an untruth.
And far from weakening Hamas to Fatah’s benefit, your war served only to strengthen it, not just in Gaza but on the West Bank where angry crowds protested not just the cruelty of your army but Fatah’s collaboration cum acquiescence in the violence against their fellow Palestinians.
Worst of all, not only did world opinion turn against you – nothing new there – but in the United States, normally an uncritical ally, your military tactics alienated many, especially young people, and even brought unprecedented if circumspect expressions of exasperation and censure from the White House, Foggy Bottom – and most strikingly – from some in the usually dependable American media.
And now you find yourself forced to take part in ceasefire talks with Hamas and on the agenda is the ending of the siege of Gaza, something that could only boost Hamas’ popularity both there and in the West Bank and bring a little closer that most dreaded of spectres, Palestinian statehood.
Imagine you are Benjamin Netanyahu and you would know you really, really messed up.
And then, all of a sudden, along comes Hillary Clinton, courtesy of a Jeffrey Goldberg interview in the Atlantic magazine, riding like the Fifth Cavalry to the rescue, signaling virtually uncritical support for Netanyahu’s war and the way he fought it – civilian deaths and all – pouring blame on the heads of Hamas, Islamic terrorism and European anti-semitism and giving Netanyahu the green light, should she succeed Obama, to demand ongoing control of security in the West Bank.
Imagine you are Benjamin Netanyahu and suddenly the gloom begins to lift a little.
You can see a happier ending to the mess you created for yourself: drag out the ceasefire talks until the US mid-term election after which, if the polls are correct, Obama will be a much weaker and faint-hearted president and then hold on till 2016, channel lobby money to the Clinton campaign and hope she wins. And even if she doesn’t, her GOP opponent will likely be in the same camp.
Imagine you are Benjamin Netanyahu and suddenly you find yourself smiling again.