A Dutch journalist asked me last Wednesday to try and divine the thoughts of Binyamin Netanyahu on his way to Washington.
It seems that she was satisfied with the results, because she asked me to divine the thoughts of Mahmoud Abbas, too.
She must have liked that as well, because then she asked me to do the same for Barack Obama.
Here, then, is what I told her:
Netanyahu's thoughts on the way to Washington:
The main thing is to minimize the damage.
Just now, someone asked me how I see our situation in four years time. Four years! I am thinking about what is going to happen in four weeks, when the settlement freeze is due to come to an end!
I feel like an officer on the bridge of the Titanic, who sees the awful iceberg looming up.
These settlers (yes, yes, I know I should call them "inhabitants of Judea and Samaria") cannot be trifled with. Impossible to reason with them and convince them to keep silent while we look for ways to get around the freeze.
Arik [Sharon] tried. When he planned the separation, he told the settlers: let's sacrifice a dozen small settlements in order to save the hundreds of others. Let's amputate a little finger in order to save the entire body. It didn't help. The settlers decided to fight for every single settlement.
Last year, when we started to discuss the freeze, I fought like a lion to limit it to ten months, instead of a year, as Obama had demanded. We both understood the difference: the ten months come to an end at the height of the American election campaign. A year would have finished after the elections. I thought that if the freeze came to an end in September, Obama wouldn't dare to press me to extend the moratorium. Jewish votes and Jewish money would make the difference.
I grew up in the States. I know how things work. AIPAC rules Congress. The politicians are afraid of us all the time, and even more so at election time. They know very well that if they don't support Israel, they will be kicked out.
But now we have a mess. Obama wants at all costs to do something that can be presented to the voters as a great achievement. But Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] refuses to negotiate if we restart building in the settlements. So Obama pressures me to continue with the moratorium. If I agree, my coalition will break up. I have not forgotten that last time, in 1999, it was not the left that toppled my government, but my rightist partners.
For sure, Obama and his people will come up with all sorts of compromise solutions. A "symbolic" freeze that will not really prevent us from building. Or a "symbolic" lifting of the moratorium, that will really prevent building. Or something on the lines of the Meridor proposal. That's a trial balloon I asked Dan to float in his name. [Minister without portfolio Dan Meridor proposed building only in the large settlement blocs that the government intends to annex to Israel.] But the settlers don't agree to that either.
So what to do? I don't know. I must rely on my talent for improvisation and get round this obstacle. But even if I succeed in postponing this matter until after September 26, it may blow up then. The main thing is to make sure the blame falls on Abu Mazen.
And peace? Don't make me laugh. I have no time for such foolishness. Clearly, the maximum I can offer does not even come close to the minimum they can accept. What, I should partition Jerusalem? I should dismantle the hundreds of settlements and outposts? I should give up the Jordan valley? I should agree to the return of even one refugee? Even if I wanted to and I most decidedly do not! I would be unable to do it. What, to break up the good coalition I have now and be dependent on that dreadful woman?