Like the chicken with its head cut off that jerks about the farmyard, so our political scrambling appears today: What's really the purpose of all the clever deals, the sly spins and the party battles for survival and power? Politics just keeps on going from inertia, running on empty, as a hollow combination of aggressive maneuvers and personal competition. None of the significant parties or their leaders has anything new to say, any vision, any plan, any outlook, any ideas or any solutions. There aren't even any promises anymore.
Yes, we know "just how much promises are worth"; we've even grown accustomed to the paradox of the person elected doing just the opposite of what he promised: The hawk brings concessions, the dove builds more settlements, the "social affairs" man stirs up war, and the "perpetuator of the legacy" buries the agenda he inherited. But today there aren't even any hopes to be disappointed. The political murmurings exist in a barely disguised conceptual vacuum: The disengagement is dead; there's no one to talk to; don't even mention Syria anymore; no one's talking about the settlements; no one has a solution to the Qassams; even the Likud opposition, whose might was always in its rhetoric, has nothing to say or propose as an alternative to the non-policy.
Only in such an atmosphere could the Labor primaries have taken place against a backdrop of near total, defiant silence from the leading candidate, Ehud Barak, a silence that was broken only when he promised to run the next war well and "to beat Bibi." Not a word about a diplomatic alternative to war, or what he would do after he "beats Bibi."
Nor could much more be gleaned from his opponents, talkative as they may have been. And what's all this compared to Kadima's version of the Torricelli vacuum to be found in the baseless and unreliable chatter of Ehud Olmert, from his declaration that "there's no need for an agenda" to his announcement this week that he is "conducting an examination" of Syrian peace intentions.
If it weren't for the Second Lebanon War, there might not be anything at all to talk about. How fortunate that at least the Winograd Committee was invented, providing the latest excuse for prolonged silence before, during and after the publication of its findings. But if we didn't have Winograd, another excuse would surely have been found. What did Cabinet Secretary Israel Maimon admit this week? "I cannot think beyond one day ahead...I'm occupied from morning till night with survival, with taking care of the government, and not in the theoretical sense. For the past four years, it's been an impossible situation."
In the not-so-distant past, politics was still brimming with ideology, ideas, plans, agendas. Now it seems that has been eliminated: No one talks about Greater Israel or about withdrawal; no one talks about peace or about an all-redeeming war. Aside from fixing the treads on the tanks, no one has any new ideas either: It seems all the ideas have been used up, militarily and diplomatically. If there is still a right and left, it's only in the talkbacks and on the soccer fields.
It's easy and convenient to blame ourselves and the politicians; but there is another to blame, who may even be the main culprit. Not long ago, a Palestinian official explained the "logic" behind the launching of Qassams after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza - perhaps the final straw that broke the back of Israeli optimism. He says this action is meant to tire Israel out for the very long term, to continually nip at it and wear it down, so it eventually loses its vitality in a future big war.
And, indeed, Israel is worn out: not in its zest for life or its economic productivity, and maybe not in its military strength either, but in all that has to do with our neighbors and any expectations from them. The Palestinians have managed to drag us into their abyss of despair; we've become just like them. Now, on our side, too, all the soaring ideas have been knocked down, all the shining hopes have died. Israel has integrated in the region, but not in the way it hoped: worn out, apathetic, fatalist, devoid of new ideas, nothing coming to mind now except the next war.
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