How would Israel look if its left finally died?
Where did the right learn to fend off peace through big talk and bigger paralysis? The masters of Labor.
The social democratic movement that brought this country into being, Labor, has entered what may be the final stage of a remarkable and tragic transition from colossus to hospice.
Its self-styled healer, Ehud Barak, also constitutes the most lethal symptom of its affliction. It has begun to dawn on the heirs to the Labor estate, those who still possess a modicum of youth and vigor and vision, that the disease, and in particular, the treatment, may soon drain the inheritance to nothing.
Longtime friends are distancing themselves from the patient, whose bed is surrounded with disgruntled family members blaring their hatred of Barak as an extremist capitalist dictator (Amir Peretz) and a Mafioso (Eitan Cabel). Many are threatening to leave the patient forever. The clock is ticking, and the end may be no more than weeks away.
Meretz, Labor's rapidly aging love child, has meanwhile turned from ideological refuge to sheltered housing. Its onetime helmsman, Yossi Beilin, having run the party aground, has jumped ship.
Many Arab political movements have become increasingly hardline, some distancing themselves from cooperation from the Jewish left - one, at least, espousing anti-Semitism and backing violence against Jews.
So, in a country founded by leftists, how would Israel look if its left finally died?
It might look just like it does.
The Prime Minister would work just as diligently as the man he once ordered assassinated, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, to find creative new ways to reject the concept of two states for two peoples.
The Finance Minister would be a onetime Peace Now activist - injured in the same 1983 grenade attack which killed fellow Peace Now organizer Emil Grunsweig during a Jerusalem anti-war demonstration - turned apologist for the repeal of government social benefits for the needy.
The Foreign Minister would be a man who in 2007 warned EU Mideast envoy Tony Blair that any attempt to address the core issues surrounding the establishment of a Palestinian state at a U.S-hosted peace summit would "bring about the collapse of the coalition and the government in Israel."
The Public Security Minister would be a man who, hours before the Pope's arrival in Jerusalem, would summarily order the police to bar the Palestinian Authority from holding a news conference for foreign correspondents in East Jerusalem.
The Defense Minister would be a man who, even if he led the Labor Party, would keep the economic siege clenched on more than a million Gazans ? rockets or no rockets, while letting West Bank settlement construction hum on unabated.
The head of the opposition, whose advice on enlisting the Arab world in the Mideast peace process is being incorporated into U.S. policy, would be a former lifelong Likud activist, rather than a Labor, or former Labor, supporter.
Every single day, several times a day, there is a concrete reminder of the direction things are headed. The need for powerful voices on the left is stronger than ever. The government, for its part, is already honing its approach: Stalls, feints, alternation of crude outbursts (Lieberman) with sophisticated and meaningless formulae (everyone else).
Perhaps most disconcerting, for those who truly want to see progress toward peace, is the clear lesson in all of this: Where it comes to fending off peace through big talk and bigger paralysis, the right learned from the masters - the masters of Labor. Take, for example, the 10 years post-1967 when Labor was still firmly in charge.
These days, it may be much too late to ask what Israel would look like if the left were dead.
At this point, if the left were dead, would anyone even notice?
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