Political Animal / Let's air it out
We are thankful for having reached this day, on which a Muslim Arab citizen has been appointed a minister in the Israeli government. Unfortunately, nowadays any worthy deed is a suspicious deed; and it's not necessarily the fault of suspicious people, but that of people under suspicion. This appointment has aroused quite a number of suspicions.
The first is that the appointment of MK Ghaleb Majadele is nothing but a primaries bribe for Labor-Supporting-Arabs (LSAs). There is a basis for this suspicion. Defense Minister Amir Peretz is embarking on a final shopping spree, and this is the payment he is offering. In that case, what else is new? That's how elections are run here, and appointments in exchange for votes are a common phenomenon.
A few weeks ago, MK Orit Noked was the candidate to succeed Ophir Pines, who is resigning. Her candidacy was removed from the agenda only because the stocks of the kibbutz movement have fallen on Peretz's frenetic exchange. With the entry of comeback kid Ehud Barak into the race, the chair of the Labor Party understood that he no longer had any reason to pick up leftovers in the harvested fields of the kibbutzim. Barak, the former kibbutznik from Mishmar Hasharon, is the favorite son of the landsmanschaft (fraternal organization) of the kibbutzim, from Afikim in the north to Revivim in the Negev.
And if one former kibbutznik is not sufficient, now another former kibbutznik, Ami Ayalon of Maagan, is also now walking in the fields, and nowadays people are walking less in the fields and running more. And between the two, the only thing left for the third - Peretz, a total outsider - is to glean in another field, and the Arab sector is a field that is always promising, but doesn't always deliver. Instead of a payback to the kibbutz voting district, it is therefore preferable to give a payback to the Arab district.
LSAs have suffered many disappointments in their lives, and one more straw candidate will not break their bent backs. Peretz, in his situation and in theirs, is probably saying to himself, if they wish, they'll eat the crumb from the table of the chairman, if they don't wish, they'll eat it anyway. What choice do they have? What else are they being offered to eat? And why shouldn't the LSAs be present at the last supper of their crucified leader? If the members of the agricultural communities, the elite of the Labor movement, are allowed to make a shady deal, so can the LSAs, who are always the last in line for handouts, and all the goodies run out before they get to taste them.
And the second suspicion-fear that casts a shadow over the appointment is that Majadele is not suited to the job of minister of culture, science and sports. You want the truth? He really isn't. But there's nothing much new here either. Is Orit Noked more suitable? And since when are ministers appointed on the basis of suitability? And why do people suddenly want to measure Majadele according to unprecedented criteria?
And if we're already on the question of ability and suitability, we should open it wide and air it out. On the contrary, at this opportunity let's discuss the suitability of Ehud Olmert for the premiership and of Peretz for the defense and of Avigdor Lieberman for his special job. Was Lieberman put in charge of "strategic threats" only because he himself is terrifyingly off-putting and infuriating, or were additional secret reasons found? Majadele is now being given an equal opportunity to fail; when was the last time an Arab citizen was afforded such an opportunity?
And the third fear/suspicion is stuck like a poisoned arrow in the target that Lieberman has long since marked for himself: to go out in public, among its leaders, in order to receive a Badatz seal of kashrut certification for his party, Yisrael Beitenu; "beitenu" ("our home"), not their home. And who will now add his signature to the seal of approval? The person who is liable to be expelled from his home if the bouncer's plan is implemented: First he bounced drunks from nightclubs, now he'll bounce Arab citizens in broad daylight.
It is not fair to place the entire burden of legitimizing transfer on the narrow shoulders of the new minister, nor does he have to bear the sin of his colleagues. The entire gang that sits around the cabinet table like uprooted olive saplings, from the prime minister to the education minister, has already attached the kashrut label to Lieberman's bottle. Not only did Kadima and Shas do so, but the Labor Party, to its shame, also attached the label and remained attached to its cabinet seats. Only one minister did not remain attached; Ophir Pines got up and vacated his chair. But none of his friends have any problem - in terms of ethics or friendship - with filling his empty chair immediately.
The great air purifier is of course Olmert, who opened the door to Lieberman and invited him in; his spray is suffocating rather than refreshing. And the deputy purifiers are the Labor ministers who did not rise up to a man as did one of their number, and did not leave the hall when the photographer arrived. Even U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is quite an aerosol. She has seen fit to meet with Lieberman three times already - with him, of all the ministers. America loses its sense of smell entirely when it arrives in Israel.
Things change with time, usually for the worse, and habit has a power of its own. We are becoming accustomed to one government with two faces: the face of Lieberman and the face of Shimon Peres, and with drooping eyelids that have not undergone plastic surgery it is difficult to discern who is who; through the fog, it sometimes seems as though all the ministers have the same face.
If she didn't already exist, Labor would invent her: MK Esterina Tartman, chair of the Yisrael Beitenu faction, wants not only the Abu-Aisha family to sit caged in their house, she wants all the Israeli Arabs to sit in a cage before they are moved away from here. She has a large and ugly mouth, does Tartman, and she opened it against Majadele, and for a moment it seemed as though Yifat Alkobi ("slut, slut") one of the Hebron settlers, was speaking out of her mouth.
This is not the first time in Israeli politics that warring sides have congratulated and strengthened one another; Shinui was built up in its day only from the attacks of Shas against it, and the opposite is also true. This week Queen Esterina the scourge ensured the appointment of Majadele: Who wouldn't get up and protect him from her swollen saliva glands. And only Lieberman himself is still capable of ensuring the reelection of chairman Peretz, if only he intensifies his attacks against him; he'll probably continue to try, it's worth his while.
Racism viruses are being dispersed in the compressed air without anyone noticing. This week the cough of Yisrael Beitenu was heard in the sealed room of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The committee, headed by a professor from Kadima, intends to abolish the status of Arabic as a second official language in Israel. On the road to absolutely equal rights, in the spirit of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, another obstacle is being removed. From here on in, there is only one language.
Before harnessing the horses of transfer, they are already expelling the language of the exiles, uprooting it from the mouths of its speakers. And Professor-MK Menahem Ben-Sasson didn't even know he was like that, like Lieberman. Liebermanism is a contagious disease, one has to be careful, and the vaccination is running out, and winter is at its height.
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