Tel Aviv is an amazing city. Even in August, it is effervescent, vibrant, steaming with desire, flush with cash. From morning to morning, from beach to beach, Tel Aviv celebrates itself - a city with no precedent, a city with no inhibitions, a suntanned, hipster-pants, sleeveless city. A city whose hedonistic trip is so intense that it leads her to believe there is no Israel apart from it, no Judaism and no Islam around it, no real people outside its circle of revelers.
This is especially so this summer. Because this summer, consumer-oriented Tel Aviv is celebrating - unknowingly - the cessation of terrorist attacks. This summer secular Tel Aviv is celebrating - unconsciously - the victory over the ultra-Orthodox. This summer, Tel Aviv of the big capitalists is also celebrating breaking the backs of the workers. And within those massive walls it has put up against Palestinians, black hats, settlers and poor people, upper Tel Aviv once again feels protected.
Bon vivant Tel Aviv again feels that it can cloister itself in its closed, electrifying club, and snort Netanyahu's top-decile boom. It can snort Yosef Lapid's full-bellied white men's alliance and get high until the morning light in the hope that Sharon severs the city of plenty from Gaza; that Sharon severs the city of abundance from the conflict; that Sharon divides between the sparkling megalopolis and the horror and complexity of the Middle East.
In the summer of `99 we were in a similar place, when Benjamin Netanyahu was beaten and Aryeh Deri was denounced and peace stood at the threshold. When Ehud Barak's enlightenment celebrated its victory, and when from the tens of thousands of proud throats in the square came an unforgettable roar: "Anything But Shas."
Now, five years and 4,000 casualties later, that sentiment is here again. For what is happening now in the living rooms on Friday nights - in Arnon Milchan's living room, where Yair Lapid is making alliances with Shimon Peres, and in Shinui's spotless-behavior circle - is that Tel Aviv is once again growling "anything but Shas." Because now, after the barbarians have been warded off, Tel Aviv of the top stories is once again sure of itself. Tel Aviv again wants a government in its own image: A government with no sweaty poor people. A government with no religious people, Russians or Arabs. A government of big business. Of fair secular people. A government of disengagement-from-the-Palestinians that is totally cut off from the large majority of Israelis.
Nothing could be more wrong. Already in the middle of the `90s the peace process failed because it was seen as elitist. Barak's adventure in 2000 also failed when it cloistered itself in its elite circle. So anyone who has learned anything from the experience of the past decade must be very careful from falling into that elitist trap again. Anyone who believes that the disengagement is a national rescue project must refrain from turning it into a prestigious alienation project. All Israelis must be invited to take part in it. Especially those in the periphery. The Israelis of Sderot. The Israelis who worship Rabbi Ovadia as a halakhic authority.
It is not certain that the residents of Sderot and Ofakim can be brought aboard the disengagement boat. It is not certain that a place can be found for the Torah Sages near the helm. But we must try. We must open a door. We must give the planned disengagement from Gaza a Jewish dimension. We must give it a popular character, because one thing is clear: If the sail toward the end of the occupation will once again be a champagne and caviar cruise, laced with hatred for the ultra-Orthodox, it will end exactly as the previous Titanic peace cruise ended.
Paritzky's friends did right this week when they succumbed to Sharon, parted from the boycott principle and accepted (in part) the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazim of United Torah Judaism. But this is not enough. Now they must go the extra mile and accept Shas's ultra-Orthodox Sephardim as well. If Rabbi Ovadia Yosef lends his hand to the disengagement, then Shinui must lend its hand to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. If it cannot do that, its time is up. It must get off the political stage.
The withdrawal is an existential necessity, politically and economically, demographically and morally. Even for Lapid's Tel Aviv, the disengagement is an existential necessity. So for the sake of the disengagement, for the sake of the end of the occupation, Shinui must change. Shinui's satiated Tel Aviv must hold out its hand for reconciliation.
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