Benny Begin was spared no form of insult after he popped out of the Geological Institute for a moment in order to slam the bizarre disengagement plan and to strengthen the hand of its opponents. He was described as a dinosaur who suddenly returned to life and will soon be extinct again, and as a fossil in which only geologists (like him) have any interest.
It hardly needs saying that it would be difficult to find anyone in the political arena who is farther from me than Benny Begin. If he is for the Whole Land of Israel, I am for the whole of Israel within the 1967 borders; if he is for all the settlements, I am for their evacuation. But in this case it's not Benny Begin who deserves contempt, but precisely those who are contemptuous of him. Benny Begin deserves high regard - even if one disagrees with him on every issue, as I do.
I confess: Begin is definitely my kind of guy. He can't be bought and he can't be sold. If the country and the Knesset were filled only with Begins, there could be a problem. And with only Sharons, Olmerts and Bibis, we don't have a problem? And how we have a problem.
I am sympathetic toward people like Begin, because without them we would forget where we came from, where we are going, and for what we have to give an accounting - to ourselves and to others. I certainly prefer him to two other species of politicians.
One species is that of the apostates, whether for spite or for convenience. It's very desirable and perfectly permissible, of course, for Sharon and Olmert to change their minds totally overnight, but let them at least give us some sort of explanation: How is it that only half a year ago Netzarim, the isolated Gaza settlement, was as important to them as Tel Aviv, and suddenly, from one day to the next, it's the most serious threat to the state's security. Their plan had everything, but it lacked one thing: an explanation, however feeble. And the enthusiasm - what can I tell you? When I saw Olmert, all worked up, gesticulating wildly on every platform, I thought to myself that maybe less enthusiasm and more admission of guilt would be more persuasive. For 40 years they created a golem and now they expect it to do an instant flip-flop. Things have gone topsy-turvy: the golem has become the creator, the creator the golem.
But the second species of politician is even worse than the passionate apostates. These are the bisexuals, who have both masculine and feminine organs. They are both for and against, both supporting disengagement and objecting to it, accepting it with one condition: that it will be eradicated from the world. Examples of this species are Benjamin Netanyahu, Limor Livnat and maybe also Silvan Shalom. There is no species I abhor more, and one Benny Begin is worth all of those others put together.
I know that a large part of the public, and especially among the observers and commentators, will actually prefer the disruptive, zigzagging politicos. They consider them realists, people you can cut a deal with, and say that they, with their zigzagging and maneuvering, will extricate us from the mess we are mired in. There is some truth to that: We won't get far with people like Benny Begin, and if we have only them, we will live perpetually by the sword. But with people like him we will at least know which way the wind is blowing and not feel as though we're just blowing in the wind.
Things would be impossible solely with people like Begin, but is it possible to exist without them? If so, alas and alack for us. People who lead us up the garden path are dangerous, and the garden is usually full of thorns, too. Benny Begin is definitely not one to deceive us like that. So it's worthwhile and important to argue with him bitterly, but there is no justification to despise or disparage him. Moreover, in the battle of forces - and our commentators mainly like politics of force - Begin this time wiped the floor with Sharon and Olmert. The power of ideology has not yet vanished completely, and that's probably the only positive thing in the whole fiasco of the referendum and its results.
In this connection, people in these parts like to quote Moshe Dayan, who is said to have uttered the famous remark that "only mules don't change their mind." In our political menagerie, there are a lot of wolves and hyenas and foxes, and various other creatures from the reptile and invertebrate families, but what we really lack are a few more mules like Benny Begin.
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