The people, or at least a majority of them (including MK Ofir Akunis), want a potted plant. A green philodendron that stands silently in a corner of the living room, across from the settee. A houseplant that doesn't make noise, doesn't hide anything, doesn't disturb anyone, upon whose beauty all the guests remark. The people, or at least a majority of them (including Akunis), want the president, Shimon Peres, to be a potted plant.
For years, the president himself enjoyed being a potted plant. Charming and gracious to all, not saying much in public and not getting in the way of anyone's line of sight, attending every ceremony, meeting with every statesman, and standing like an impressive philodendron in the corner of the state's parlor.
That's how we loved him, Peres, as we have never loved anyone, as we never loved any president before. Leading every public opinion poll, Peres had a second flowering in his old age. Old age? Indeed, some of the enthusiasm he provoked is a result of his having become a natural wonder, a miracle of creation: How lucid and eloquent he is for his age; how impressive that he has managed to visit 50 countries and meet with a thousand statesmen in five years - the Golan Heights in the morning and Tze'elim in the evening and Kamchatka the next day. He never tires and never slips up.
Like a traveling circus and its freak show of natural wonders, Israel has proudly flaunted his beautiful face to the world - a statesman who has met both John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama and all the presidents in between, who can talk about nanotechnology and literature, who can console Israel's Olympian judoka Arik Ze'evi and flirt with Sharon Stone, and above all who speaks of peace, peace and more peace. Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head: Israel rose in love to honor the eldest of its statesmen, and half the world rose with it. And suddenly it turns out to have been baseless love.
The statesman momentarily steps out of his cardboard cut-out; the philodendron becomes a human being. All he does is say a few reasonable, completely nonsubversive things about the need to coordinate with the Americans before attacking Iran, and all hell breaks loose. All adoration disappears. The people who wanted a potted plant are less than satisfied, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those who speak for him (including Akunis.)
Were Peres a truly admired figure, they would not dare to come down on him with such arrogance. Were he truly loved by the people, his remarks would have echoed from house to house, perhaps preventing a war. But overnight the adored president became, in the eyes of the right, the old, subversive Peres, the criminal of Oslo. It seems that even the love for Peres is conditional: It depends on him continuing to be a houseplant. In other words - be old and pretty and keep your mouth shut, Mr. President.
Desperate for everyone's love his whole life, there probably has never been another Israeli statesman who craved it so badly. He always tried to please everyone, not always successfully, but when he moved into the President's Residence, it was mission accomplished. From the book-filled office on the second floor, the ground-floor reception hall and the olive garden in front, he could wrap himself in Swiss-quality neutrality and become cherished by the public. This weekend it all turned out to be an illusion. Many politicians derided him, few defended him, just like in the old days. So much for "statesmanship."
There is something incredibly tragic about this, you have to admit. Peres met his supreme duty for only a moment, warning in the most measured way about impending disaster, and the thin camouflage of "the public's love" was torn. At least half the public is already against him; the spokesmen for the right are loyal to their voters, after all. The promo for this horror show was already released a month ago: Peres dared to say that the settlements jeopardize the state's Jewish majority, an obvious statement that also brought the "wrath of the right," in all its chutzpah, down upon him.
My heart goes out to Peres. Look at what has been said about him in the past and now again. The conclusion to be drawn is that anyone who seeks the public's love would do well to be a potted plant. Anyone who does not want to be a houseplant is called upon to carry out their duty and to forgo baseless love, the kind of love that is in no way better than baseless hate. And Peres? One fears he might go back to being a potted plant.
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