A Hebrew Lesson For Obama: Hu lahitz

Gershom Gorenberg

As I write,  Barack Obama and  Bibi Netanyahu are still meeting in Washington. The meeting has been extended for half an hour, Ha’aretz reports. Until the protocol is released in 25 years or so, we can guess that Bibi is lecturing to Barack about the Spanish Inquisition, Masada, the Holocaust and Iran, and Barack is too polite to shush him. In the meantime, my curtain-raiser is up at the American Prospect.

Hebrew is a compressed language. Much disdain can be packed in a few syllables. To say of the prime minister, “He’s someone who cracks under pressure,” takes just two words: hu lahitz.

When a television mike caught the Israeli Finance Ministry’s budget chief using those words last week, the budget chief denied he was talking about Benjamin Netanyahu. The denial was hard to take seriously. For one thing, the official resigned the next day in disgust over Netanyahu’s handling of a national budget crisis. For another, the description precisely fit the prime minister’s behavior.

In the lead-up to Netanyahu’s meeting today with Barack Obama, I’m sure the president’s staffers have studied the Israeli leader’s positions on the Palestinians and on Syria and Iran. Let’s hope they also carefully watched how Netanyahu dealt with the first major domestic challenge of his new term in office. It was a characteristic Netanyahu failure of negotiating skills, leaving him deeply politically unpopular just a few weeks after taking office. But the budget affair needs to be read carefully. The pressure under which Netanyahu bent was local, not foreign

Read the rest here; I promise it’s shorter than Bibi’s lecture.

5 thoughts on “A Hebrew Lesson For Obama: <em>Hu lahitz</em>”

  1. I find it interesting how so many “progressives” are now finding merit in the fact that Bibi is supposedly “lahitz” (maybe he is, or maybe he isn’t, that isn’t the point). Is this some sort of wishful thinking? Does this mean that you are glad he won the election since he will “crack” in front of Obama and then do what you want?
    A lot of things have happened since his last term in office, 1996-1999. We have had governments in power continually for the last 10 years committed to the “2-state” solution. Did you get it? Olmert said he was totally committed to it. He said “Israel is doomed” if a Palestinian state is not set up as soon as possible. Tzippi Livni says the same. So did they do it when they had the chance? (As if the Palestinians are going to oblige them and set up a state so they can do Israel a favor and save it).

    We are now hearing that Obama wants a “regional” peace plan. So now it is not enough to convince the Palestinians to make peace, he is going to get the whole Arab world to agree to peace with Israel. What does Iran or Syria have to say about this?
    The whole idea of Oslo was that it is not possible to get pan-Arab agreement to peace so Peres and Rabin offered money and power to get Arafat (the “strong, authoritative leader who can make concessions to Israel and get the Palestinian people to go along with him”) to cut a separate deal. This failed, so now they think they are going to go back to the old Pan-Arab plans which were already discredited 20 years ago.
    Good luck, all y0u “progressives”!

  2. It’s going to take someone much more credible than Bibi to convince me that the Palestinians truly want what we in Israel conceive of as “peace” — open borders, normalization, end of territorial disputes, end of incitement and demonization, etc. Abbas’s rejection of the Olmert-Livni attempts to reach a compromise have convinced me that “compromise” isn’t part of the Palestinian parlance, and that every time Israel offers anything, it will never be “enough,” always moving “peace” to a higher and more unattainable shelf. Maybe Obama can convince us all to meet in the middle–I’d like to hope so, but unlike the Left, I see Palestinian intransigience as the problem, not Israeli lack of compromise offers.

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