A Love-hate Story

One of the characteristics of Israeli politics today is that the nation's leaders hate or love their colleagues less. They're more focused on public opinion polls and back-room deals than political relationships.

A few weeks ago, MK Weizmann Shiri (Labor ) was asked by Mazal Mualem of Haaretz why Ehud Barak fights with everyone close to him. "Ehud's problem is that he's not a politician. If he were less committed to security and invested more in politics, things would look different," said Shiri. If this interview had been published yesterday, the 15th of Av, the Jewish Valentine's Day, I would have said that Barak's problem is that he's in love only with himself.

One of the characteristics of Israeli politics today is that the nation's leaders hate or love their colleagues less. They're more focused on public opinion polls and back-room deals than political relationships.

Looking back, you see that political bonds were deeply rooted in love-hate relationships, both emotional and ideological. Until the Six-Day War, David Ben-Gurion hated Menachem Begin. He never mentioned his name in the Knesset, referring to him as "the man sitting to the right of MK Bader." Their hatred stemmed from a rift over Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the Revisionist Zionist leader. Ben-Gurion refused to reinter his remains in Israel, as Jabotinsky had requested in his will. His remains were moved only when Levi Eshkol became prime minister, when the admiration between Eshkol and Ben-Gurion turned into hostility.

Paula Ben-Gurion actually liked Begin. When he would meet her, he would kiss her hand with Polish grace. She did not miss an opportunity to irritate her husband by praising Begin's gentlemanliness. The hatred between Begin and Ben-Gurion became friendship when Begin proposed making Ben-Gurion prime minister again on the eve of the Six-Day War. But Eshkol and Golda Meir adamantly opposed the move - the hatred for the founder of the state was absolute among his followers, of all people.

Golda, who was no beauty, was the most admired woman in her party. Though she was called the only man in the government, the truth is that she was very feminine. She loved like a woman and hated like a woman. When the national unity government was formed in 1967, she asked Begin not to include "those neofascists Dayan and Peres" in the cabinet. Begin replied that without them he would not join the government himself, and Golda retreated.

Golda's reputation as a passionate woman was also linked to a few affairs. Without dropping names, we'll leave it those who can solve the riddle. A certain biography that appeared in the United States said she was a woman "with whom it was a pleasure to sin."

Since the establishment of the state we've had pairs of leaders with love-hate relationships. The leaders of Mapam, Meir Ya'ari and Ya'akov Hazan, competed for supremacy, with Ya'ari giving the bitter excuse: "It's not my fault that Hazan is more handsome." To this day, you'll find in history books the photo of Palmach commander Yitzhak Sadeh hugging his two favorites, Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan.

Part of the veteran leadership liked Allon, and part liked Dayan. The man with the eye patch became a favorite of Ben-Gurion, who did not care for Allon. Even when Allon was foreign minister in Yitzhak Rabin's government, Rabin belittled him and bypassed him. The relations between Allon and Dayan were relations of jealousy and mutual contempt. The relationship between Shimon Peres and Dayan, both of whom were Ben-Gurion's favorite pair, cooled over time. When Dayan suddenly joined Begin's government as foreign minister, Peres considered it a betrayal.

In the betrayal department, Dayan surpassed Peres both in the political realm and in his relations with women. Dayan paved his way to Begin by saying, "I'm closer to Begin than to Ya'ari." With that he both rebuffed the left and won over Begin. He succeeded more so than attorney Shmuel Tamir, who tried to topple Begin with a putsch. He never dreamed that the day would come when Begin would be prime minister.

Over the years, political pairs have gone from being lovers to haters and vice versa. Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett, Ben-Gurion and Eshkol, Pinhas Lavon (who brought us "The Lavon Affair" ) and Sharett, who in his speech expressing disappointment with Ben-Gurion's retaliation policy, said: "Israel must decide if it wants to be a state of piracy or a state of law." The lovers and haters came to us in successive pairs. Peres' "dirty trick" and Rabin's description of him as a "relentless schemer" are things of the past. The only lover who survives is Shimon Peres, who is in love with himself.