An emotional and intellectual hurricane
Over a period of almost 40 years, certain characteristic patterns of behavior have become fixed in the Israeli right and left that go beyond political positions. Despite the substantive differences in ways of thinking and approaches, these patterns all share one common denominator: They are automatic. Both camps - the one known as "the national camp" and the one called "the peace camp" - act according to basic instincts that have become entrenched in them. One can generalize and say that the national camp always feels that it is right, while the peace camp always feels guilty.
The past month has undermined the ease with which it previously seemed possible to pull a prepared opinion out of the arsenal of fixed positions. This different war, this confusing war, has not only shattered basic truths in both camps, it has also forced most of the Israeli public to adopt a different way of thinking. Primarily, a way of thinking that contains a grain of humility vis-a-vis the complexity of the situation. During the disengagement, many people said that Israeli society was undergoing a radical reorganization. That was a mistake. The storm that accompanied the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank was like a tornado - intense, but limited in area. It took place within a defined public and passed over all the rest.
The war now taking place in the north is an emotional and intellectual hurricane that has swept up most of Israeli society, including communities that remained outside the tornado of the disengagement, such as Arabs and new immigrants. In a somewhat simplified fashion, one could say that the right is learning the limits of the power that it reveres. And the left, or at least large parts of it, is being confused by the outburst of basic patriotic instincts that, after years of disuse, appear to it to contradict universal values. This process of reeducation makes it imperative to internalize the understanding that not every urge to identify with the country is dangerous fascism, just as not every acknowledgment of the limitations of the use of force is a sweeping admission of defeat for the idea that we have a right to exist.
Out of the awful tragedy of this war has been born a sobering realization for both sides: that they must not cut themselves off from this country. The soldiers of the right - who were hurt by the disengagement that was, and perhaps by that which is still to come - are now meeting up with the soldiers of the left - some of whom refused to serve in the territories in the past or were constant opponents of the occupation - in that most Israeli of common milieus: reserve service. Those who swore that they would forever remain adversaries with nothing in common, who saw in each other an existential threat to their deepest weltanschauung, now find themselves thrown together in the arena of battle. They are confused, angry at themselves and at the reality that has led to this, but imprisoned in a solidarity which, even if it is merely temporary, has the strength to tear down that which divides them.
None of the above is meant to imply some kind of fake unity, or to preach such unity. The gaps between the camps remain in place, although both will be forced to reorganize along different axes after the war. A large portion of the problem can be attributed to the peace camp, which for years organized its worldview around the equation "land for peace." The fact that the second Lebanon war broke out despite a withdrawal to the recognized international border makes it imperative to realize that the conflict is not merely territorial, but rather one that involves "something more," which will require a new definition. Many on the left already recognize that the erosion of the simple equation "land for peace" constitutes a heavy blow to the peace camp, even greater than former prime minister Ehud Barak's declaration that "there is no partner" following the failure of the Camp David talks.
On the other hand, the right will be forced to recognize that territorial compromise is still a precondition for isolating and assessing the other components of the conflict.
All of this requires new parameters of thought, a new lexicon and an openness that disturbs the easy comfort of fixed ideas. The phrase, "quiet, we're shooting" must now be replaced by "we're thinking and shooting." We must not endure this dreadful war merely in order to return to our familiar patterns of behavior.