shepherd near the settlement of Revava, AP
A shepherd walking near the settlement of Revava. Photo by AP
Text size

The radical right has been loony before, too. It was loony when it saw the Yom Kippur War drawing near and did not prevent it. It was loony when it saw peace with Egypt drawing near and tried to stop it. It was loony when it initiated the Lebanon war. It was loony when it built 150 settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.

The radical right was loony when it toppled Yitzhak Shamir in 1992, when it toppled Benjamin Netanyahu in 1998, when it incited against Yitzhak Rabin and when it ranted and raved against Ariel Sharon. The right was loony when it gradually became messianic, batty and racist. The radical right was not just loony according to acceptable international terms. It was loony even based on it own principles. It refused to see reality, acted irrationally and irrevocably damaged Zionism.

But now the radical right is especially loony. Why? Because now we can see the price. Now we see the abyss we have been led to. We see the delegitimization, the demography, the spoilage. We see that more is less. We see that having it all isn't what it was cut out to be; that if we don't draw a border for the Jewish state, there will be no Jewish state. We see that the occupation is about to turn Israel into South Africa; that the settlements are about to destroy Zionism. We see the clock striking midnight.

Despite all this the loony right is staying on course. It still believes that the villa neighborhood in Elon Moreh is more important than an F-35 squadron. It still considers illegal outposts in the West Bank more important than Security Council resolutions. It still assumes that Israel's power is measured in concrete and cement, roads and settlements. Backward views on state affairs make the loony right think it is serving Israel when in fact it is sabotaging Israel. The loony right is even undermining the settlement project. When it foils every compromise regarding the settlement blocs it is dooming all the settlers to the fate of the settlers in Algeria.

A week ago Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drafted several understandings. It's still not clear whether the understandings were serious. It's still not clear whether they will be implemented or forgotten. But the Israeli interest in the understandings is perfectly clear - preventing a UN resolution on establishing a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, preventing the Palestinians from turning the construction in the settlements into their eternal alibi, and strengthening Israel's security.

The loony right refuses to see the crystal-clear Israeli interest. It is kicking and screaming, threatening and running amok. The very idea of freezing construction is driving it into a frenzy. The very attempt to resume the peace process is driving it berserk. With its mouth foaming the batty right demands that we all walk tall with eyes wide open to perdition.

The conclusion is unequivocal - if Israel wants to live it must release itself from the loony right's stranglehold. The settlers' rabbis are not the State of Israel. Nor are Shas' rabbis. National Union, Habayit Hayehudi and the Likud rebels are a tiny minority. Only because the political system isn't functioning they gained power. Only because the silent majority is silent they can bring upon us one disaster after another. Because sane Israel is indifferent, loony Israel gets to lead us to the brink of catastrophe. Not because of an act of God but because we are weak-willed and dispirited we allow the wacky fringe groups to take over the national agenda. We let lunatics take us to dark places.

Netanyahu sees this frenzy around him and gets nauseated. He knows very well that the loony right lacks a basic understanding of state affairs. He realizes that the loony right is dangerous. But to move from understanding to action, Netanyahu must achieve a political big bang. He must make opposition leader Tzipi Livni a substantial proposal. He must make a real effort to put together a Zionist government. Only a government consisting of the three central Zionist parties can deal with Zionism's crumbling. Only a Likud-Kadima-Labor government can make the necessary decisions on the peace process. Only a different government can prevent the loony right from driving us all over the edge.