Belief in One Idol

It appears as though a miracle will occur tomorrow. The Labor Party will choose a wizard who before the very eyes of the observers will fuse the fantasy of peace with the current war. This is because the outcome of the Labor Party primaries will not serve as a punishment for someone who failed in an unnecessary war in Lebanon or abandoned a social platform, but rather means to elect a new pied piper of Hamelin. A sort of hallucination, whereby the person elected party chairman will be the one who a year from now heads the peace process, dismantles the illegal Jewish settlements in the territories and negotiates exchanges of territories.

But members of the Labor Party are not voting in the primaries in order to fulfill this fantasy; rather, they are trying to realize its opposite: to elect someone who will bring us more "security" - the professional and highly experienced fighter who will give us the war of which we are worthy. A war that at long last we will win. The same party that emblazoned negotiations with the Palestinians on its banner, that entered into peace treaties and that still sees itself as a social party now wants a more decorated general. When the party heads are asked how they could forget about the reason for the party's existence, they reply that if the party wants to return to power, it will have to be headed by a person the public will follow. Not an idea or a vision, but rather a person who will be the best salesman for the product of the month: security.

Security is indeed the buy of the month - after all, what will really happen in the important test a year from now? On the assumption that no significant progress is made on the diplomatic front and that Israel will still have to deal with threats from the north and sporadic firing from the south, and assuming that no single party is able to establish the new government - won't it be the Labor Party that will once again trail after a larger party? Will this not be the same form of security, or "war," that will be determined by the larger coalition partner?

And even prior to this, will the general who will be elected tomorrow not have to work hard to blur the differences between the right and the center? More precisely: Will he not have to demonstrate a great deal of militant determination in order to honorably grace the chair of the defense minister in a government not of his own party? In fact, one might well assume that the general's role will be to march the Labor Party another substantial step in the direction of destroying its character and further submerge it in that hodgepodge now trying to save itself from the Winograd report. He will also have to perform the physical miracle of making the party follow its shadow, and not the other way around.

There is no doubt that the government of Israel needs an experienced and responsible defense minister; there is no doubt that the Labor Party is now required to put at its head a charismatic figure who will fight for its place in the public arena. But isn't this a wasteful position for an idol when it isn't clear where the party itself wants to lead the public? When it lacks an ideological specification sheet for "winning of hearts" before the next, crucial elections?

The thought that the right person has to be put in place first and then the right idea will follow does good service for the fantasy of security and peace, which suffers from a split personality. This is a fantasy that tomorrow a general will receive the majority of the votes because of security - that is to say, because of war - in a party that, when the time comes, will run on a platform of peace. And here lies another absurdity. The Labor Party primaries are also the primaries for Kadima and for part of the right. If they make it clear to those parties, against whom they will have to run a year from now, will it suffice for them to choose a more glittering idol, or will they have to deal with a new vision and a different public discourse? Herein lies the double responsibility of the Labor Party members: If they do not believe in their party's ability to win the elections, they must at least bring about the next contention over ideas; and if they do believe that their party will be able to present a new ideological alternative, what are old generals doing at the top of their list of contenders?