Reading Bibi's Mind

Our columnist imagines what the Israeli Prime Minister is thinking these days

  • Illustration by Matt Dorfman for TIME

    I'm actually beginning to enjoy this Arab Spring, a little. You don't believe me? I like democracy. Democracy has been very kind to me. I've been elected Prime Minister of Israel twice. I made a speech expressing hope for democracy in Egypt and even made a practical suggestion — a regional Marshall Plan to put all those unemployed Arabs to work building housing and infrastructure. I really do hope for the best.

    But do I believe the best is going to happen? That's another story. Let's examine some recent examples of democracy on the march in my neighborhood. In Lebanon six years ago, the people went into the square and drove out the Syrians, or seemed to, and had their elections — and now they have a government controlled by Hizballah. When the Palestinians had elections, Hamas won. The Iranians have elections even, in their own peculiar way. Hooray for democracy.

    Egypt will have elections now too. The Muslim Brotherhood is very smart, very patient. It will contest only 35% of the seats in the Egyptian parliament. It won't stand a major candidate for President. It will stand back and watch the economy collapse, and then it will ride to the rescue in the next round of elections, in maybe five years.

    Already the Egyptians are telling us privately, "Hosni Mubarak gave you a free ride on the peace process. We can't afford to do that because we want to represent — democratically, mind you! — the will of the people. And the Egyptian people have about the same regard for Israel as for Mubarak's bathroom. So if you don't get moving on a peace settlement, we're going to let the world know we're not very happy." They actually said that to a delegation from our Foreign Ministry in Cairo a few weeks ago, except for the bathroom part.

    Soon we may have lots of democracy in Syria too. I will be sad to see Bashar Assad, that ophthalmologist, and his Iranian sponsors go. People say it would be good for the Jews. People say when Iran loses, we win. People say it will hurt Hizballah. Maybe — but tell me what we do about all those rockets and missiles Hizballah already has, rockets that can reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? And tell me what replaces Assad? Syria is a Sunni-majority country. Am I still going to have a peaceful northern border, or am I going to have Hamas by any other name? I'll take the devil I know.

    It would be nice to see Iran lose for a change, though. Iran never loses. It does get sick a lot — mysterious viruses in its nuclear program. So sad about the Stuxnet. The Americans don't believe me when I say this, but that Supreme Leader wants to nuke us. He told a European diplomat that he wanted to see Israel in "a sea of fire." I'm supposed to take chances with that? The Americans are leaving Iraq, which gives the Iranians a clear path across the desert, across Jordan — adios, my dear little friend King Abdullah! — and right onto the West Bank. The Americans want me to give up my troops in the Jordan River Valley? Good luck with that!

    And this brings me to why I really love this Arab Spring. It has reconciled my former non-negotiating Palestinian partner, Mahmoud Abbas, with the killers from Hamas. So everybody wins! Abbas regains the esteem he lost on the Palestinian street because he was negotiating with us. Hamas gets to have more elections next year. They love elections. And I'm the biggest winner of all: I don't have to pretend to take these people seriously anymore. No peace plans. No concessions. Not even Barack Obama is going to ask me to hand the keys to Hamas.

    But I am tempted by a two-state solution, sometimes. Everyone in my government is in favor of two states, even my Foreign Minister, who is crazy — like a fox! — Avigdor Lieberman. He has a proposal: redraw the borders to make 200,000 Israeli Arabs sudden residents of Palestine, while we get to keep most of our West Bank settlements. I would never actually propose this, I guess. My Supreme Court would have a conniption fit: you can't deny citizenship to 200,000 Israelis who happen to be Arabs. The Israeli Arabs would have a conniption fit too. They don't want to be Palestinians. They like it in Israel. Talk about inconvenient truths! I'd love to shove that in the face of all those Euro do-gooders. You want me to negotiate a Palestinian state that Arabs don't even want to live in? How broad-minded of you. How happy are your Arabs, by the way? Yes, I am tempted. It polls well. It would help me with Lieberman's wing nuts.

    But I won't do that, probably. Unless Obama takes it seriously when the U.N. recognizes the Palestinians and he proposes a plan of his own. Then I may have to counter him with my plan. Right now, I don't have to do anything. Right now, I just sit back and smell the lovely spring flowers.