All the election campaigns that have been conducted in Israel in the past decade have been deceptive. Yitzhak Rabin misled the Israeli public (and himself) when he was elected in 1992 on the basis of "We're tired of corruption," without saying a word about Yasser Arafat, about the Palestine Liberation Organization, or about the Oslo plan. Benjamin Netanyahu knowingly misled the Israeli public when he was elected in 1996 on the basis of the promise to abide by the Oslo Accords, without saying a word about the fact that his real intention was to suffocate Oslo elegantly. Ehud Barak deliberately misled the Israeli public when he was elected in 1999 on behalf of the elderly woman lying in the hospital corridor (for lack of space), without saying a word about the partitioning of Jerusalem, about a withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, and about descending from the Golan Heights to the shores of Lake Kinneret. And Ariel Sharon misled the Israeli public in good faith when he was elected in 2003 after firmly opposing then Labor leader Amran Mitzna's plan (to evacuate Gush Katif and to take unilateral steps to separate from the Palestinians), and without saying a word about evacuating settlements, about a unilateral move and about a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip without receiving anything in return.
The deception was not a coincidence, nor was it localized. It was not the result of an accident or a mistake. To the contrary, the deception was systematic. It stemmed from the fact that while the worldview of Israel's elected leaders was right-wing or left-wing, the worldview of their electorate was and remains centrist. Therefore, in every election campaign, both the candidates on the right and those on the left pretended that they were centrists. Whether by means of distraction, or by direct deception, they tricked the public by presenting it with a false display of centrism. On the other hand, immediately after winning the hoped-for votes, both the rightists and the leftists reassumed their original identity, and promoted a radical agenda that had nothing to do with the rhetoric they had used during the course of the election campaign. That's how we arrived at the assassination of Rabin. That's how we arrived at Ariel Sharon's crisis of legitimacy.
This deception must not be repeated. It is unethical and it is dangerous. The next political step that Israel will or will not take in Judea and Samaria really is an existential one - a matter of life and death. Therefore, the decision that will shape the move must be a clean decision, a clear-headed decision, a decision by a nation that makes the choice of its life in a worthy democratic process.
The refreshing discussion of social welfare that Amir Peretz has introduced into our lives is a good thing. Renewed discussion of the issues of minimum wage, privatization and the welfare state is important and necessary. But make no mistake, the 2006 elections will be a national referendum on the partitioning of the country. And in this national referendum, we have to choose among three alternatives - Netanyahu's path of status quo, the 1967 path of Peretz, or the middle road of Sharon.
In a certain sense, the upcoming elections are tantamount to the moment when a patient meets with his doctors on the eve of a fateful operation. At such a meeting, there can be no lies, there can be no deception. In order for the patient to be able to make his decision in a mature and responsible manner, he must receive precise and comprehensive information from his doctors about the operation they are about to perform on him. Only thus can he decide whether he chooses the daring or the cautious operation, or continues to live on borrowed time with the cancerous tumor.
Amir Peretz is a man of truth - authentic, intelligent, charismatic. Therefore, when he comes to propose his Geneva path to us, he must clearly state that he is proposing the Geneva path. When he comes to propose peace within the 1967 borders, he must tell us honestly that he is proposing peace within the 1967 borders. It is unworthy for Peretz's challenging social welfare platform to serve as a smokescreen that hides the true agenda from the voters. It is not worthy for the socialist spark of Labor controlled by One Nation (Peretz's faction) to cause the residents of Sderot, Ofakim and Netivot to be ignorant of the life-and-death decision they are about to make at the polls on March 28, 2006. The agenda of this election campaign cannot be dishonest. Regardless of the outcome, the agenda must be a truthful one.
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