If there is a hell
The Israeli political hell does not boil down to just the mechanics of power - it also applies to ideology and worldviews. Somehow, we have found ourself in a convenient, permanent arrangement whereby no political camp can achieve its declared goals.
Our post-election situation brings to mind a well-known story about what hell must be like: People sitting in front of all kinds of tempting foods, but the forks and spoons are so long that no one can put anything into his mouth. In this respect, there is no doubt that Israeli politicians (and voters) will get to heaven when they die - because they have already been through hell while alive.
This week these things became extremely obvious, but the situation is not new. We already have received false announcements of the "next prime minister;" we already have seen the "deerskin seats of power" slip away right under our noses, and how power slips through the fingers even after a ballot box victory. This week it all came back - with the usual mix of surprises and d?j? vu.
But the Israeli political hell does not boil down to just the mechanics of power - it also applies to ideology and worldviews. Somehow, we have found ourself in a convenient, permanent arrangement whereby no political camp can achieve its declared goals (or really wants to): The spoon will never make it into the casserole and then the mouth.
Thus, the "right" has never annexed the territories, even when it enjoys a large electoral majority, just as the "left" has never returned them - even when political and public circumstances would enable this.
It is not by accident that Defense Minister Ehud Barak bragged that he, unlike the Likud, has never returned even a single meter of territory, and has never taken down a single settlement.
There is, then, excessive melodrama and even a bit of absurdity in all of those apocalyptic statements from both politicians and commentators about "the final victory of the right," which have conquered the national agenda.
What does this mean, practically speaking? Or, in other words, what else is new? And what exactly did we have until now?
One might think that this week's election results nipped in the bud the center-left government's massive peace momentum, which would have been accompanied by daring concessions on the ground or some more egalitarian social and economic agenda.
One might shudder at "the reversal," but we are forgetting that not only has the present government missed its rare opportunities to advance peace, security and equality, but that it also managed to get Israel embroiled in two wars, failed to close the social and economic gaps (on the contrary, it only emphasized the nouveau riche character of its leaders) and expanded settlements more than any of its predecessors. True: Far-reaching speeches were made in praise of peace and concessions; there were "fruitful talks" (about a juniper bush in the desert) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) that included smiles and friendly touches; there was talk of "restraint" regarding security. But none of this went past blather, and evaporated in the face of reality.
If this was a "left" that collapsed, what could a "victory by the right" possibly mean?
This bloc, after all, has been casting its terror until now, and even if it won 70 Knesset seats, it would not implement its annexation policy, confront the Americans or build in the territories more so than the "center-left" did. Nor would it be able to "let the Israel Defense Forces win" any more than Labor Party comrades Amir Peretz, Ehud Barak, Matan Vilnai and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer did while defense ministers and deputy defense ministers; after all, just how far can the IDF "win"?
Nowadays you need a microscope to distinguish - at least on the practical level - between the ideological "camps" when they are in power. And the election - even though it wasn't personal - was less reflective of the camps' ideologies than the public's opinion of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Likud MK Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Getting back to the story about hell, it goes on to describe heaven: The righteous sit facing the same delicacies with the same long utensils, but they feed one another.
We, too, need this kind of cooperation, even though its chances are zero: In our hell we eat one another, after having swallowed some rotten eggs along the way.
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