As an Israeli, I want the Egyptians to win
Israel's sense of entitlement is a curse, and we are all either under its spell or under its shadow; only the inconceivable that turns into the inevitable can bring change to this place.
I want the Egyptian people to win their revolution. And I say this as an Israeli.
I want our neighbors, the people of Egypt, to show us how it's done. I want you to show us the last thing we expected to see. Because it is only when we see our best consensus assessments proven dead wrong, when the wholly unanticipated stuns us, when the inconceivable turns overnight into the inevitable, that change comes to this place.
I want you to know that the fear that you may feel coming from here is a good sign. At this point, if change doesn't terrify us, it isn't real.
I want you to vex us and baffle us and cause us to realize that some things in this life really are beyond our prediction, beyond our control, beyond our sense that we know what's best for ourselves and all others.
Israelis were not always slow learners. It may be difficult to imagine this now, with a government here whose only actions, apart from the normal commerce of corruption, are taken in the service of inaction.
The race to concoct laws to legitimize repression and inequality, the deep kowtowing to buy off the settlers and the ultra-Orthodox – all of it is fundamentally aimed at cementing in office an unpopular, unwieldy government whose only campaign platform, at this point, is that any alternative would be worse.
For us, there's a distinctly uncomfortable but ultimately healthy humility, in realizing that we have no idea what's going on in the only region we seem to know anything about. I want to thank you for that.
It is beginning to dawn on my people, the Israelis, that freedom for Arabs may have nothing to do with annihilation for Jews. I have you to thank for that.
Here and there, people here are recognizing that the Arab world, and this grand nation which is its cultural epicenter, is vastly more complex than this view of a vast sea of blood-eyed fanatics barely restrained by the brittle dykes of a heavily subsidized corps of despots.
And there's another lesson we need to learn, most of all.
What is the common thread that ties Hosni Mubarak and Ehud Barak, that makes Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman increasingly resemble the rulers of unapologetically non-democratic Mideast regimes? Why has this Israeli government done its best to emulate in two years, repressive measures Hosni Mubarak took 30 years to refine? Why do they find irrelevant the common good and the public's welfare and wishes?
It is the sense of entitlement. The leader's myth of personal exceptionalism. It is a curse, and we are all either under its spell or under its shadow.
Is there another nation in the world which is run by a tinhorn Louis XIV as prime minister, a tin-hearted Louis XIV as defense minister, the Soviet Sun King as foreign minister, and whose candidate for chief of staff had to be dropped when it turned out that he'd lied his way into building himself a Versailles?
The myth of Israeli exceptionalism goes far deeper than our leaders, of course. And so do its consequences. From an amalgam of the concept of the Chosen, the wounds of the Holocaust, and the awe and shock of the 1967 and 1973 wars, it is this sense of entitlement that fuels the settlements, and enshrines the Occupation whose purpose is to shield them.
These are the mantras with which the entitled among us hold the rest of us hostage:
We deserve to build settlements because we have suffered and the Arabs are violent.
We deserve to reject compromise because we are too generous and the Arabs want us dead.
As long as the Arabs refuse to accept us, we dare not show weakness.
The Arabs hate us no matter what we do, so we get to do what we want.
If it wasn't for the left, the world would understand us and we would be just fine.
Democratic freedoms and the rule of law are vital, but we are in a state of war.
Tuesday's events said it all.
What better time, as the world watched millions of Egyptians demanding democratic freedoms, for a handful on our right to assault the foundations of democracy in Israel?
At issue – a rightist push to establish parliamentary commissions of inquiry into the funding sources of human rights organizations, the point project of a broader campaign against the work of these groups.
Seeking to head off the effort, Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Ynon Tuesday issued a ruling strongly condemning the commissions of inquiry as anti-democratic.
"The very fact of establishing the commissions," Ynon told the Knesset, "creates a public atmosphere which threatens freedom of thought and of protest, an effect which is perceived from a legal standpoint as problematic in a democratic system of government."
In addition, Army Radio quoted Ynon as saying, parliamentary inquiries are not authorized to investigate civilian bodies which are not part of the executive branch of government, and therefore they cannot require activists of the organizations under investigation to appear before them.
Undeterred by Ynon's ruling, entitled by various conceptions of a Higher Law, proponents of the commissions - led by a protege of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu and a hardline, anti-Palestinian statehood, strongly pro-settlement Likud MK - won Knesset House Committee approval of the initiative on Wednesday. The commissions bill must now be passed by the full Knesset to become law.
The revolution of the Egyptian people has little to teach those, like Lieberman, who are too busy unraveling democracy to pay attention. But you do have much to teach the rest of us.
And one other thing. I want some of my people, just this once, to learn to shut the hell up.
When Malcolm Hoenlein, the influential executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, chooses this moment to brand Egyptian opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei "a stooge of Iran," Hoenlein is showing the world not only how little he knows about Egypt, but how little he really cares about Israel.
I want Malcolm Hoenlein to take a closer look at the Tahrir Square. I want Malcolm Hoenlein to consider that if the people of Egypt win a revolution for democracy and freedom, the people of Israel will have won as well.