It's the eve of Yom Kippur and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sees fit to release a "new" and invidious plan for unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians. Although it's a cynical and transparent political move, it's still infuriating in its chutzpah.
Barak should have taken advantage of Yom Kippur eve to apologize to Israelis for the "no-partner" concept he imposed on them to cover up his disgraceful failure in what at the time was still the peace process. Instead, he feels like Cinderella as he emerges dressed up in a bad plan to deal with the no-partner he created.
Barak used to like apologies and requests for forgiveness. The one we remember best of course is his request for forgiveness from the Mizrahim - Jews of North African and Middle Eastern descent - in 1997. There was also an apology to members of his party for not including them in decision-making, and there was his "expression of regret" in the government's name for the suffering caused to the Palestinian people. Were these really requests for forgiveness? A close look reveals that not a single one included a process of understanding, regret, responsibility or a genuine request for forgiveness.
The request for forgiveness from the Mizrahim was made at a time when "Barak listened to his advisers," as one of them told me. But Barak didn't apologize for something he did; he volunteered to blame his predecessors and apologize for them. The apology to the members of his party for not including them in decision-making was made in his resignation speech, so he didn't have to change his ways - and nobody will claim he has changed since. In expressing regret for the suffering caused to the Palestinian people, he made sure to point out that he wasn't doing it out of a sense of responsibility or guilt; it was a kind of general regret about the Palestinians' bad luck. Indeed, regrettable.
In his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Zohar Kampf of Hebrew University's Communication and Journalism Department examined apologies in Israeli politics; his conclusion is that basically there's no such thing. Kampf is impressed by the creativity of Israeli politicians to avoid an apology.
There are four main ways:
* to regret instead of apologizing; that is, not to ask for forgiveness;
* to blur the damage; that is, to apologize for a specific component of the offense but not for the entire phenomenon;
* to blur the identity of the offended by claiming that no one should be offended by the act, and so to ignore his existence;
* to blur the identity of the offender, explicitly denying direct responsibility for the offense.
In real life there are several types of forgiveness. Sometimes you realize you've done something bad and hurt another person. Other times you don't necessarily do something bad and had no evil intention, but someone else was hurt. Our politicians have no understanding of either type. Are they wrong? They're never wrong.
So it never occurred to former ministers Abraham Hirchson, Shlomo Benizri, Aryeh Deri, Rafael Pinhasi and others to apologize for the money they stole. It never occurred to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to apologize for his deceptions during the first Lebanon war and the Gaza disengagement. It never occurred to President Shimon Peres to apologize for the breach of trust toward broad sections of the population after he left the Labor Party and switched to Kadima. He couldn't bear his defeat to a Mizrahi (after the resignation of Barak, who apologized to the Mizrahim ). And it certainly never occurred to the various sex offenders - Yitzhak Mordechai, Moshe Katsav and Haim Ramon - to apologize to the women they sexually assaulted.
Particularly amazing is Ramon's story. If he had apologized immediately - I really didn't mean it, I'm sorry I hurt you - the whole story would have ended there: without a trial and without the "persecution" by the State Prosecutor's Office. But no. Sorry isn't in an Israeli politician's vocabulary.
Of course, it doesn't occur to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to apologize for breach of trust to the public that elected him prime minister. On the other hand, apparently the court too doesn't think Olmert has to apologize to us. G'mar Hatima Tova to us all. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
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