Cancel the new Information and Diaspora Ministry, let the new foreign minister go, and we may as well shut down the information departments at Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu - we have a new propaganda minister. We've had better and worse presidents, but we've never had a president who served as government propagandist. Now we do: Shimon Peres has appointed himself to the unworthy task. Since the new government formed - the most right-wing government in Israel's history - the (seemingly) left-wing (former) peace man has become its public relations agent.
Indefatigable as always, he has launched a worldwide campaign consisting of phone calls to statesmen, media interviews and visits overseas. His goal - slapping the kosher stamp of approval on what the world sees as an abomination. Instead of the real picture, he is giving them another masquerade.
First he legitimized Avigdor Lieberman (who said on Tuesday in Italy that "nothing has come from this whole peace industry," which Peres cogenerated), then Benjamin Netanyahu - both men of peace par excellence in our president's eyes. On what basis exactly? Trust Peres. It culminated of course during his visit in Washington, when Peres told his hosts: "Netanyahu is seeking a historic peace," and "Since he was elected I haven't heard him speaking against a two-state solution ... peace is at the top of his priorities." No less. Netanyahu's spokesmen couldn't have done it better.
Do we have to ask who put him in that role? Is the president's job to act as the prime minister's spokesman? Is it appropriate for the president to reward Netanyahu this way for arranging him a visit to the White House?
And let's assume Peres thought otherwise - that Netanyahu is the obstacle to peace and that Lieberman is no less than a declared racist - would he have dared to say so? And if he had, what a scandal that would have erupted over the state president's forbidden involvement. But to praise in vain is permitted.
Peres did not skip even the perverse comparison of Iran to Nazi Germany. The Israeli president may cheapen the Holocaust's memory like this; he is allowed to compare. But when Israel's critics dare draw such a parallel, they are automatically branded as Israel haters and anti-Semites. Peres, the statesman who firmly objected to the Begin government's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor, is now the lead vocalist in the national intimidation choir against Iran, conducted by maestro Netanyahu. This, too, is inexplicable.
Peres also hasn't forgotten the shopworn, hollow old slogans about Israel's yearning for peace, slogans for which one might still find dubious buyers only occasionally in America.
Israel yearns for "peace with all peoples, with all Arab states .... No more war, no more destruction, no more hatred," he recited, as is his wont, at the conference of the right-wing Jewish propaganda lobby, AIPAC. Peres feels at home there, of course.
With its arms outstretched for peace, Israel opened two criminal wars in two years, and Peres didn't utter a peep. With arms outstretched for peace, Israel continues to build settlements in the territories, and the president hasn't said a word. No more destruction? What about the terrible destruction Israel wreaked in vain on Gaza? Not a sound from Peres. No more hatred? What exactly was Israel sowing in Gaza? Peres keeps mum.
Instead he enlisted in the campaign against the report by the UN investigative committee, which concluded that Israel deliberately fired at UN institutions in Gaza and used excessive military force. What, isn't it true, your excellency the president? How do you know, as you yourself always ask.
Peres was elected president of the state, not the government. Netanyahu and Lieberman haven't yet taken the tiniest step toward peace, but Peres has already turned them into Peace Now activists. It's hard to tell if anyone in the world is buying this abominable, tainted merchandise that Peres is trying to sell, but meanwhile he is abusing his office. This is not what he was chosen for. He must not end his long career like this, as the pathetic government spokesman, the most inferior post he has served since being appointed Defense Ministry director-general two generations ago.
Yes, it's been almost 60 years, and Peres is still in the headlines, where he loves to be so much, but this time as a PR man. It saddens the heart.
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