Every Independence Day, someone makes sure to tell us the holiday's theme. Will it be dedicated to "Israel's children," "hopes for peace," "the tribes of Israel all together", "the Merkava [tank]," or something similar? This time, after last year's 60th anniversary celebrations, which were dedicated, as we all recall, to Ruhama Avraham Balila, we will merely dedicate Independence Day to "rebooting." Because all of a sudden everything is returning to square one - all the talk, plans, political activists, ways of life, fears and anxieties that we thought were behind us long ago.
Like Mark Twain's book about the Connecticut commoner who suddenly finds himself in King Arthur's court, transported back hundreds of years, we rub our eyes as if we cannot believe it: In our 61st year of independence, we have apparently returned to the days of magic potions, battles between knights and war over territory and honor. Our failure to recognize a Palestinian state, the demand that they recognize us, "the whole world is against us" mentality, the momentum for new construction in the settlements, the Chametz Law, the increase in religious coercion, even Benjamin Netanyahu's public-relations maneuvers - all these are not fading headlines in old newspapers but written and unwritten paragraphs in today's "100-days plan." Anyone who thought that countries undergo a maturation process will probably think twice because of the corner we have been pushed in by the new government, whose true face is apparently being represented by Avigdor Lieberman.
Indeed, all of this is only on the face of things. Even the Liebermans know that this defiant regression to the days of our political beginnings is merely a kind of St. Vitus' Dance or, in the best-case scenario, a kind of minuet whose time is numbered and outcome known in advance.
Another month or two of "formulating policy," another year or two of ungainly gyrating, and this government will also accept (at least in terms of declarations) the historically inevitable, or the political dictate that involves concessions.
It would thus follow in the footsteps of its predecessors' decisions, which also required a year or two to be reached (at least from the declarative point of view).
If in practical terms nothing changes from one government to the next, this is because the first two years in every term are wasted on flexing muscles and foot-dragging, and the last two, or what is left of them, are wasted on preparing for elections brought forward because of the (verbal) readiness to make painful decisions. Time passes until the baton is passed to the next government, which then drops it and wastes more time picking it up. So the vicious cycle repeats.
A simple calculation will thus show that with all the not-good intentions, we simply never have the time to form, decide on and apply decisions about change. Decades pass during which maintaining the status quo without a horrible disaster is considered an outstanding achievement. (See the retroactive glorification of Yitzhak Shamir's term).
No one talks anymore about creativity or purposely moving forward after we were burned by Oslo and the Gaza disengagement. And if all protests have died down in view of the promised stagnation, this is from the realization that the tough diplomatic approach will be broken by external factors, and a moderate breakthrough will not take place anyway.
And so it is that the decades pass in Israel, like a computer that has been attacked by a virus and reboots itself over and over again without being able to load the software. From time to time, it receives a kick from a programmer who has despaired of trying to fix it, but it goes on. The programs are in terrible shape but the package is as strong as the Merkava.
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