Ariel Sharon has decided to end the state of Israel as we know it. And not a moment too soon. His tool is the disengagement, a plan with something in it to upset and disappoint everyone. At one stroke, to change the national subject, to junk the tedious discourse of decades. For that reason, if for no other, the plan may be what Israel has needed for years.
The left, still arrogant, still innocent, still rudderless and toothless and mute, quietly resents Sharon and questions his intentions. The left gazes from the side as Sharon dismantles settlements in Gaza - something the left could never bring itself to do. It clucks in reservation as Sharon cements Israel's hold on West Bank settlements the left, in theory, wants to cede - and which, in practice, the left for decades only built up.
The left needs to look at itself with honesty. For once.
The right, which in its modern version was invented by Sharon, the right that once looked to him as Israel's Caesar, has now recast him as its treacherous Cassius.
The right needs to look at its heritage with honesty. For once.
The right needs to recall that it was Menachem Begin who traded for peace the vast majority of the land captured in the Six-Day War. Benjamin Netanyahu needs to recall that it was Benjamin Netanyahu who, handing a victory to gunmen, traded away the bulk of the holy city of Hebron to Yasser Arafat.
Settlers, meanwhile, are livid, cuckolded by the partner who literally put them on the map, the same Arik whose brawn and guile helped them turn a marginal idea into the most transforming revolution Orthodox Judaism has known in more than a century.
The settlers' pain is already profound, their trauma likely to last for years, regardless of the outcome of the disengagement. To ask that they look inward at this point would only add insult. But when it does happen, the settlers may see the same unfortunate truth as the rest of us.
The nation at middle age is in the throes of a mid-life crisis. A nation used to thinking of itself as young is being forced, against its every instinct, to grow up.
Perhaps the plan, not unlike its author, really does offer something for everyone to hate. But the unease, the fury, the fears over the plan only begin with the disengagement. There is a broader threat at work as well.
Israel, born of the conflicting revolutions of Socialist Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, Religious Zionism and ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionism, has from the start been a nation that idolized, enshrined and often subsidized rebellion.
As a consequence, Israel's political spectrum is a latter-day Twelve Tribes of revolution, with fervent camps representing in-your-face free market secularism, Sephardi religious pride, us-or-them transferism, and Shenkinite ultra-liberalism.
Allegiance to one's revolution has long been a badge of personal identity, as the orange-clad, bumper sticker-mad settler movement demonstrates. At this point, many Israelis identify more closely with their revolutionary tribe than they do with the nation as a whole.
Small wonder, then, that no one wants to defend Sharon. Because to do so is to speak up for human frailty, for complexity, for the capacity to change one's mind. And because doing so is to speak up for someone whose lifelong distrust for ideology gave him a vision, for better or worse, that is his alone.
If the disengagement goes forward, it will be a signal that the era of permanent revolution has begun to wane. It will be a sign that Israelis of all extremes - those who believe that all the territories must be given away and those who believe that none should be, those who believe in a secular state and those who believe in a state ruled by Jewish law - must reconcile themselves to an Israel with something to disappoint everyone.
A state to love, which, like all nations, affords every one of its citizens something to hate.
Most importantly, the pullout plan may force Israelis, perhaps for the first time, to really look at one another and at themselves. The left, so avowedly sensitive, may at last acknowledge settlers as people who feel real pain.
The settlers, whose Judeo-centric revolution has paradoxically isolated them from other Jews, may reclaim their position as full citizens of Israel.
It won't be easy. It won't be soon. Many will continue to opt for the clan over the consensus, the blood ties of revolution over the drab bonds of citizenry. Certainly one-sidedness is the sex drive of revolution. Passion is vastly more seductive than compassion, assault much more instinctive than understanding, demonization easier by far than dialogue.
It will take an earthquake, an earthquake of the magnitude of a disengagement, to force Israelis to see across their all-too-familiar fault lines to a complex reality and to solutions that we can ultimately live with. Even if, inevitably, they are solutions that none of us can love.
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