Has Peace Become the Enemy of Israel's Leadership?

Head to Head: An interview with Yair Garbuz.

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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Yair Garbuz is a satirist, artist, publicist and art teacher. In the past, he was one of the authors of the satirical section Davar Aher (Another Matter) in the Hebrew newspaper Davar. Garbuz was one of the keynote speakers at the rally held Saturday night to mark the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. In his speech, he claimed that the peace process as it is being presented by the government is a big hoax. He criticized the lack of a leadership in Israel that can bring about peace, the blurring of lines between the leaders of the right and the left and the perpetuation by politicians of discrimination in this country in order to win the elections.

Yair Garbuz, has peace become an enemy of the Israeli leadership? Are the leaders on the left and right not able, or not willing, to reach a peace agreement?

Garbuz in his studio. “One day the people decided, and justifiably so, to punish the existing leadership and since then it has received punishments in return.”Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

That is a fact. If one wants to check it in a more sophisticated manner, its possible to see that people who speak about peace today are considered by part of the nation to be enemies. What was Rabin murdered for? For an act? No. He was assassinated because of the chance he gave to peace. I love this country. I am an artist who lives here but nevertheless, after they finished calling Rabin obscene names, they started calling me those names. They called me traitor a few times, and someone who stabs the nation in the back.

At the memorial rally, you used scathing and forceful words. How was your speech received by those present?

I wasnt able to sense the audiences exact reaction during the speech. It seems to me that the strongest reaction came when I said that the talks were one big hoax. The leaders who are conducting the peace talks do not care about your survival or mine but only about their own. They are conducting these talks in order to gain time. Thats all.

How did this come about? Why dont the leaders really work toward achieving a peace agreement?

We have raised leaders who are not worthy. Everyone can say that from his own political position the voters on the left who raised Ehud Barak and found they had gotten Benjamin Netanyahu, and those who raised Netanyahu as a leader and found they had gotten Ehud Barak. In boxing matches, when two boxers are wrestling with one another, it is generally a sign that they want to rest. The two leaders, Barak and Netanyahu, are in a Siamese hug. That says everything.

Can you indicate the point in time at which, to your way of thinking, the leadership began to decline?

One day the people decided, and justifiably so, to punish the existing leadership and since then it has received punishments in return. In my opinion, everything began way back when Menachem Begin ascended to power. The difference between Begins camp and my camp what some call the left camp, and others call the peace camp is not the extent of guilt about the absence of peace. Most of the bad things were created even before Begin. But his guilt lies in the fact that he rode the horse that his predecessors had created. The social discrimination, the ethnic discrimination: none of these were things Begin created. But instead of changing them, he preserved all the gaps. That is where the greatest electoral prowess of the parties in Israel lay then, and still lies to this day. The crime is not latent in the ideological question of right or left.

What are you getting at?

A political tie has been established out of fear. It is not that one camp replaced another camp in the eyes of the public, but that a tie has been created. Both sides tried to woo the idiots who had no opinion. The right wanted to show it was a little leftist and the left wanted to show it also had statesmanship, and in this way we got this androgynous being that we now live with.

President Shimon Peres actually made a powerful speech at the rally in favor of the peace process and the peace camp. Does he not genuinely mean what he says?

Peres is a walking monument at present. He is not in a position where he can decide on policy now. We dont analyze speeches from monuments. Peres would like to be more of a statesman these days.

You called on the children and grandchildren to join in in changing the system and becoming future leaders who are more worthy than our leaders today. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the ability to change the leadership in Israel?

I am optimistic the moment I stop being fatalistic. I have the impression that a counter-wave has to arise to the conceit and hedonism of now. I was involved in education and I met a great number of students in the past few years, a great many nuclei of pupils an arts nucleus, a nucleus of students who are working and studying, a nucleus that believes in Berl Katzenelson and another that has adopted the way of Yigal Alon. Meanwhile, they are looking for a model to copy among the dead. I very much hope this necrophilia will pass.

The committee that organized the Rabin rally claimed in recent weeks that it is possible there will no longer be rallies in this form in the future. On the other hand, there have been voices in the Labor party who say they must stop leaning on e Rabin legacy and open a new chapter in the attempt to reach peace. What is your opinion?

Its good this was the last rally. Rabin is no longer here. I dont believe the change will actually come through peace talks. Everyone curries favor today with the floating voters. The monster they built during the political upheaval now controls us. The criticism over excess perpetuati on of Rabins memory is not appropriate. It is appropriate to remember him, especially since none of the people indirectly responsible for his death the rabbis has paid a price. In my opinion, the format has to be changed but we have to go on.