As Netanyahu is sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time, he takes power in a year that is as crucial to the survival of Israel, as 1947 was. And he has to do it all while performing in a political circus the likes of which anyone has hardly ever seen.
The problems and threats that Netanyahu has to deal with are numerous and great. Beginning with...
1. Internal War
The Oslo process begun by the Rabin government has steadily created a terrorist army within Israel's own borders. Over the next decade and a half, that army has steadily advanced from a guerrilla force to a quasi state. The regular rocket attacks on Israel, from within Israel, demonstrate that we are approaching the Third Stage of Mao's 3 stages of Guerrilla Warfare.
While Fatah\Hamas are in no shape to fight a conventional war with Israeli troops singlehanded, they have they shown that they don't need to. Instead a generation of territorial concessions by Israeli politicians has wrecked the morale of the Israeli public and locked the country into a one way course of more appeasement and concessions, interrupted by occasional bombing raids that fail to change the situation on the ground.
Israel's capital is now on the chopping block Israeli Arabs are becoming radicalized and terrorist cells are now active in Jerusalem itself. Should any part of the city be sacrificed, the conflict will quickly move into Stage Three, with a divided city at war. New demands will be placed on the table, involving territorial concessions across the Galilee and the Return of the Refugees, essentially the dismantlement of Israel.
Israel's left has firmly wedded itself to more concessions, regardless of the consequences. Israel's right has tried to hold out for more moderate concessions, in exchange for an end to the terror. Naturally the concessions themselves are the cause of much of the terrorism, and as a result each phase of concessions, only boosts the terrorism index higher.
In his first term Netanyahu failed to hold out, and wound up both making concessions and being blamed for causing terrorism by taking "provocative steps". The Clinton Administration managed to topple his government, resulting in Barak's hasty withdrawal from Lebanon, turning the border over to Hizbullah, with the resulting disastrous effect we saw during the Second Lebanon War.
This time out Netanyahu will have to resist pressure from an administration so nakedly hostile to Israel, that the Clinton Administration looks almost friendly by comparison. His government has been saddled with Barak on Defense, despite his legacy of failure. And he will have to overcome both those problems to take a hard stand against Arab terrorism and international interference in Israel's domestic affairs.
Time is short and there is no more room for Do Overs. Once Israel hits Stage Three warfare, the way will be open for international peacekeepers to intervene, naturally on the enemy side. Israel will have a choice between being Yugoslavia or being carved up at gunpoint. Neither option is particularly appealing.
2. Foreign Affairs
Israel has grown much too dependent on its relationship with America. The friendship however began to sour as the US pushed harder for Israel to make a deal with Arafat. Bush Sr and Clinton finally succeeded, and the result has brought Israel to brink of disaster.
This time out however the situation is far worse, with an open terrorist sympathizer in the White House, and the State Department's toadies running around the world to cut deals with Iran, Syria, Hamas, the Taliban and any terrorist or Islamofascist who will talk to them. Israeli diplomats and military aides however have been ignored, frozen out or threatened.
As Netanyahu takes office, he will find the looming eye of Obama looking over his shoulder, and demanding that Israel conduct talks with Hamas, cut open its own capital and begin making territorial concessions on a whole new scale. with Iran's puppets in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.
With US backing for Hamas, the Fatah\Hamas unity government will quickly become the Hamas government, turning the PA into a Hamas run organization. That means that Iran will have tens of thousands of armed military personnel inside Israel. And that the US will pressure Israel into turning over more territory, cash, weapons and power to Mini-Iran.
Breaking the Diplomatic Cycle of Terrorism will require thinking outside the box. Whether Israel continues making concessions, makes fewer concessions or make no concessions will not change the diplomatic assault being applied against Israel. Sooner or later, an Israeli soldier will shoot a terrorist-- and once again there will be UN resolutions about genocide, Olyphant cartoons regurgitated from Der Sturmer, and condemnations of Israel violence. The entire circus has been running for far too long, for anyone to pack up the tents.
Israel can get off the train and go on the offensive for a change, or keep getting torn to pieces, even as it's busy trying to surrender. The latter is the "safe option" that Prime Minister after Prime Minister has done, including Netanyahu himself. The former is the only hope for Israel's survival.
For a decade and a half, Israel has been playing the game by UN rules, by Moscow rules, by Washington D.C. rules and Riyadh rules. By accepting those terms of engagement, Israel has accepted their desired final outcome of the war. Its own defeat and destruction. To survive, Israel must choose its own rules, end its defensive wars and defensive diplomacy. To survive, Israel must fight back. Not in limited operations, but in a decisive campaign with a decisive outcome.
Obama's victory is both a final threat and a final opportunity for Israel to end its psychological dependency on the US, to break with the disastrous politics of a decade and a half, and decide its own destiny. If Israel fails to do so, it will go over the cliff still clinging to the White House.
3. External War
While Iran has kept busy feeding proxy wars against Israel, in Lebanon and Gaza... Iran is moving toward achieving its goal of fielding nuclear weapons. How those weapons will be used, as straight out rockets, as suitcase bombs passed off to its own terrorists, is of less concern than their intended target, Israel.
The regime of the Mullahs knows its own domestic weakness, which means their own internal clock is running down. Destroying Israel would not only fulfill their genocidal dreams, but allow them to claim the leadership of the Muslim world and with a weakened US, assert authority over much of the Middle East. That would strengthen the Mullahs at home, and allow them to bring in their foreign terrorist groups to suppress domestic dissent, without any interference from abroad. And if that was to mean a second genocide at home of some of Iran's pesky minorities, including the Azeri, having seen Iran's power, the world would fold its hands and do nothing.
While Iran plots military destruction, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates continue the old Soviet line of sponsoring terrorists and engaging in the political demonization of Israel, backed by their hefty oil laden pocketbooks. With Mubarak's government no longer enjoying American support, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Al Queda's parent organization, is now closer than ever to taking power in Egypt.
4. Domestic Politics
The splintering of Israel's political system has accelerated to a terrifying degree, particularly with the creation of Kadima. Both political corruption and party drift are now out of control. And the average man on the street has very little faith in the entire system.
Netanyahu has hammered together a coalition by going against his instincts and giving everyone a piece of pie, creating a bloated coalition with 30 ministers and assorted deputy ministers, prime ministers and vice prime ministers. This entire absurd pork pie hat of a government requires giving everyone a share in the budget, something no country could afford in a global economic crisis. Yet this form of government is virtually inevitable and follows in the footsteps of Sharon and Olmert who assembled similarly absurd coalitions.
While such a coalition, with the resulting infighting, may do for Netanyahu what it did for Sharon by providing him with a free hand, there is no real way that Netanyahu will be able to fight corruption or exercise financial discipline under this system. With public dissatisfaction already high, Netanyahu will have to make a difference quickly. And returning to his theme of financial reform in this situation will be virtually impossible.
To survive that, Netanyahu must juggle the incompatible demands of hawks and doves, religious and secularist parties, whose party leaders really only care about one thing, the financial bottom line for their faction. He must balance one party against the other, always pointing to a potential replacement coalition partner, while somehow keeping the bunch of them from spending Israel dry... and do it under constant fire from the press, weathering manufactured corruption scandals created by a politicized left wing judiciary in concord with the media.
He'll have to do all that while dealing with strong dislike from the Israeli public which has never been able to trust him or connect emotionally to him. He'll have to do it all while resisting intense pressure from Washington and Brussels... fight a domestic insurgency backed by Iran and deal with Iranian nuclear weapons... even while even Iran enjoys inflated power from its ties to the Obama administration.
It would take a genius or a miracle worker, or just a plain miracle to pull all this off. Which means this is Netanyahu's chance to be Churchill or Chamberlain. And even Churchill couldn't survive the turmoil and irrationality of parliamentary politics without wartime exigencies at his back. Nor did Churchill ever have quite so many things against him from the very start.
And that is Netanyahu's challenge, his chance to soar or flame out... likely taking Israel with him. Netanyahu has flamed out before. Now he'll get the chance to show if he learned the lessons of his previous term. And the lives of millions hang in the balance.