This is what’s been going down in the last few days alone:
1. The Prime Minister says that sanctions against Iran aren’t working and the Defense Minister claims that Iran is irrational and then the Prime Minister stipulates that the Iranians want to make a bomb and then the IDF Chief of Staff flatly contradicts them and says that Iran is rational, sanctions are working and the Iranians won’t really make a bomb after all. And the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister go on saying what they were saying before, as if nothing’s happened.
2. The next day, a former chief of the Shin Bet, who spent his life in what Israeli leftists like to call “the apparatus of darkness,” opens his mouth for the first time since retirement and sounds like a turbo-charged Peter Beinart: the Israeli leadership suffers from a messiah complex, they are morally unfit to govern, they can’t wage war and they sure as hell don’t want to make peace.
3. Less than 48 hours later, an up and rising Likud minister and a fabled former head of the Mossad nearly come to blows in front of hundreds of people in New York. The Mossadnik calls the minister a liar and compares a proposed Knesset law to Nazi legislation, while the minister accuses the man who until recently was hailed as a cross between Indiana Jones, George Smiley and Bar Kochba as “harming the state security,” a crime punishable by law. “How did he ever get such a high position?” asks the minister of the man who was an IDF general before serving for eight years as head of the Mossad, where he was widely considered to be one of the best ever.
Even for cynical Israelis who think they’ve seen it all, this is crazy talk. Even for people who like to boast of the rough and tumble atmosphere of political discourse in Israel, this is way over the top. Even for those who are devout see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil Israel-lovers on most days of the year, there are enough grounds now to suspect that something is rotten, or at least seriously unhinged, in the State of Israel.
Look at it from the point of view of hasbara, just as an example: Israel spends tons of millions of dollars setting up government ministries and NGOs, conducting in depth polls and focus groups, enlisting Jewish organizations worldwide and employing the best public relations that money can buy, while Diaspora Jews spend sleepless nights agonizing over yesterday’s editorial in the Duluth Daily that could be construed as implying that the Palestinians may also have a point and then get up in the middle of the night to write a letter to their Congressman complaining of delegitimization.
And what do the three outgoing heads of the revered security services, hitherto the most widely-respected experts on these matters in the international arena, have to say about all this? That Israel is being run by a couple of morally-lapsed loony-tune leaders who hear voices in their heads while laughing themselves silly mouthing the words “two-state solution” and who pore over the maps of bombing runs over Iran while quoting General “Buck” Turgidson from Dr. Strangelove to each other: “I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.”
And many Israelis immediately undergo a miraculous metamorphosis: On one side of the political map are those who previously regarded officers and officials like Meir Dagan, Yuval Diskin and former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi as cold-blooded suppressors of the Palestinians and immoral representatives of the military-settler complex - who suddenly discover that they were peace-loving, war-resisting, truth-telling freedom fighters all along. And on the other side are those who used to collect Independence Day posters of Dagan, Diskin, Ashkenazi and others of their ilk and dream of their heroes with knives in their mouths and dead terrorists in their hands and who had no doubt that these super-patriots could run the country better than any politician, if only we could do away with irksome democracy-shemocracy. Suddenly they realize that these bogus lionhearts were closet lefties with political ambitions who were just waiting for the right moment to stick a knife in the nation’s back.
But most Israelis, and most Diaspora Jews – those who haven’t been turning their eyes away – are probably looking on this sudden-onset collective dementia with complete bewilderment and growing concern. After all, if half of what the generals are saying about the politicians is true, it’s terrible. If half of what the politicians are hurling back at the generals is valid, it’s horrendous. Someone should explain what bug has entered our system that can turn all of these good people who have truly devoted their lives to the country’s well being – on both sides of the divide – into such stark, rabid rivals. And someone should put a stop to this maniacal melee before it turns into a tragedy of our own device.
If they weren’t otherwise engaged with their own meshugas, the Arabs at this point would be bringing out the salads and the lamb and the baklava and organizing a khafla – a Middle Eastern feast – to celebrate their good fortune and to give thanks to Allah who has made the Jews majnun (loco). In Tehran, no doubt, the ayatollahs are hi-fiving each other, feasting on rice and kebob and shouting “Tabrik migoyam,” which means mazal tov in Farsi.
Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev
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