I've never understood what is meant by this "political center" that everyone fawns over. What's the secret of its charm that makes everyone rush to it, crowd around it, so that its suffocating crowdedness overflows. But it is possible the secret is not so deep, and is actually quite evident to the eye and easy to decipher.
The name of the secret is opportunism. Instead of adopting a clear position, this way or that, it is a lot easier and certain to adopt two positions at once, even if both don't suit one another, even if they are partially or totally contradictory. The political center is the playground of the seesaws - they sit there seesawing to their pleasure, this way and that, this way and its opposite. First they find out what the public mostly wants, and according to that ephemeral desire, they have fun. Constantly looking for "the middle ground," as if these knights of public opinion are saying to themselves "tell me where the Archimedes point is and I'll tell you where I am."
The people of the center are considered responsible. They are not, heaven forbid, extremists. Their approach is seemingly thoughtful and measured. They are people for all seasons, every situation, every person, even if they usually don't give a real answer to any situation.
The broader public, to a significant extent, is also looking for an easy life, but what can you do, life is difficult and they sometimes have to come up with difficult to digest answers. At the political center they want the best of all worlds, to reign and lick, so much so that the party of the center is the party of suck-ups.
If one has to go against the bad spirits and swim against the ugly current - the centrists will leave it to the extremists, those who first prepare the groundwork and the hearts and then, only years later, do the seesawing people come to everything that has been prepared and then pretend they invented it. In politics, it seems, there never will be a copyright on anything. One can copy years of work - a crime that carries the stain of moral turpitude - and the plagiarists are never brought to account.
Now Ariel Sharon has shoved into the center, and nothing will be able to push him out to make way for others; the center is now occupied, and even Tommy Lapid can't get a foot in the door - there is no entry entree? for Shinui's people because they were too clear on one issue. Shinui is usually a party of pale scouts, but that paleness reveals a clear outline - an atavistic hostility toward the ultra-Orthodox - and that in itself is one sharp profile too many.
From the moment the political center is occupied, or at least appears so, all others are trapped in their places and their voyage inward, toward the consensus, is blocked. The nationalist right, whether it wants to or not, is not the right and nationalistic, no matter how much it maneuvers: here is the right, from here it will jump into the elections. The same is true for the left: Amir Peretz can retreat from Geneva, to swear allegiance to united Jerusalem "forever and ever" - he's in the left and that's that, once and for all. The campaign is a campaign of imagery, and it is harder to change an image than a position. More than politicians define themselves, their rivals define them, and thus Benjamin Netanyahu stands at the head of the rejectionist religious-nationalist camp, while Amir Peretz heads the camp that will seek peace even with far-reaching concessions.
A new party, especially one that is "centrist," seeks new people. The entire political system runs after people that just showed up, even from afar, and it's always important to chuck out the old for the new. The new people are always promising, attractive and most of all - clean. Experience shows that the new people sometimes even manage to live up to their promise, and sometimes are total failures, but are always considered old hat and thrown out even before they are thrown out in disgrace.
And sometimes it woefully turns out that they were not so clean, they simply could not stand up to the test of temptation. Therefore, while the mirror focuses on the new faces, one must nonetheless turn to look at the old, which have already been tested for a long time and have not been tainted. Therefore, watch out for the new people, whose only advantage is their relative anonymity - they aren't really known, there simply hasn't been a chance to examine them closely.
Ariel Sharon established the "new center." Like the Dead Sea, this is the lowest place in the world, where all the beliefs and views pass away; and in this sea, all the new people float, the people without any desire to swim on their own.
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