It's been awhile since I've seen the media refer to Prime Minister Netanyahu with terms like "hawkish" or "hardliner." In fact, it's worth asking if the media's starting to make a U-turn on Bibi. Here's what's making my antennae twitch:
Exhibit A: Newsweek's Dan Ephron:
Recognizing the advantages of secret talks, Netanyahu has tried several times during the past year to interest Palestinians in a back channel, according to an Israeli official who has worked alongside Netanyahu for much of his current term. In secret, the strategy was for Netanyahu to offer concessions and gauge the Palestinian willingness to bend—without the risk of losing his coalition. If an agreement did appear possible, he could go public with the outline and put it to a referendum or even call a snap election. The Israeli official told me he thought Netanyahu might possibly be willing to risk his coalition for the prospect of having his name attached to a historic peace agreement. But he would not be willing to risk it merely to engage the other side.
Palestinians repeatedly turned down the offer, the Israeli source said. A Palestinian official confirmed the account . . .
Exhibit B: Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn:
The current Netanyahu government is the most dovish Israel has seen since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. The right-wing leader is displaying far more restraint than his predecessors in using the army and in expanding the settlements. He supports the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and is now returning to negotiations on a final-status agreement.
Exhibit C: Aluf Benn again, this time in the Washington Post:
Ten months ago, Netanyahu told me in a phone interview for Haaretz, the liberal Israeli daily where I am a columnist and editor: "I want to promote a peace agreement with the Palestinians. I can bring a deal." I wrote afterward that I believed him, only to receive mocking comments from many readers who called me naive. But I have not changed my mind — and neither has Netanyahu.
Exhibit D: Yesterday's Sunday Times reported the PM is seriously mulling a referendum on withdrawing from the West Bank:
“Withdrawal from the West Bank, the core of Judaism, is the most difficult decision any Israeli PM has ever made,” said a close aide. “To make this work, Bibi [Netanyahu] must get overwhelming support from the Israelis in the form of a referendum.”
Exhibit E: The Independent. The UK paper wouldn't ask this question for nothing:
Is Netanyahu ready to make peace? The test is yet to come
Related reading: Is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a "Master Manipulator"?