There was a time when the election campaign was an optimistic stretch of time in the midst of our laborious lives; a silver lining in the clouds that for one moment brightened everything with promises, lofty hopes and all sorts of bonuses. Although everyone knew what to expect the day after - government decrees with interest to balance out any benefits - it was still at least sometimes pleasant to air out all the hopes and dreams in public.
Those days of innocence have passed and will not return. Today the candidates are competing over which will more bluntly lay bare the truths of our lives, the most central being the simple fact that we have nowhere to go but toward the next round of confrontation. The voter is only given the choice of which candidate will more confidently push the red button and which will stare more authoritatively in our eyes when the time comes to send our best sons to that sacrificial deity known as "the next round."
We cannot speak anymore of happy tidings, salvation or comfort. No leader wants to be caught making optimistic promises for fear that they will be unearthed from the archives as a damning indictment on the day a disaster befalls. After all, what are we preparing for if not the day of a disaster?
At least from this standpoint it doesn't matter if Benjamin Netanyahu wins the elections in another two weeks. The "Bibi agenda" has already won, and won big. Not as a defined political line of action (in any event, pressures and constraints from without will make the difference, as usual) but as a mood swing. The self-intimidation, the threats, the paranoia, the exclusively belligerent view of our world, the overall pessimism - they have already won the day.
Such a bleak victory can be credited to Netanyahu, because some of his critical warnings turned out to be true. (Though how difficult is it to prophesize doom in this country, particularly when you don't have a plan in your bag of tricks that's more lucid?) In any case, whenever Netanyahu spoke of "lowering expectations" during previous election campaigns, he was thought of as the serial party pooper. But now, when there is no party to poop, and when the hopes and promises of all sections of the political spectrum are more modest than current interest rates, "low expectations" become the hottest commodity on the market.
True, it takes two to tango the hope-and-peace tango, and the Palestinians have truly proved themselves to be nearly impossible partners, but it remains to be seen whether despairing of a two-state solution out of pessimism, hot-headedness and an ingrained aggressive nature is a self-fulfilling prophecy on Israel's part.
One thing is clear: Since the implosion of the Camp David talks, the Labor Party, under the inspiration of Ehud Barak, has become the most efficient, industrious entity to carry the water for the right-wing agenda on all practical matters, from settlement expansion to the rejection of peace negotiations to the launching of military operations. All it has to offer is a more stable hand on the trigger. How sad and ironic that the man who once promised "the dawn of a new day" is the one that has become the main bearer of the machete, leading us on the march into the pitch darkness, deep into the jungle of fears, threats and warnings.
In one of his recent "truth in your face" interviews, Barak laid out his vision: Strike at the enemy with great force every so often to buy a few years of quiet and prosperity. Then hit the enemy again and repeat this pattern as often as necessary. That's it. Want expectations? Promises of change? Go to Obama.
On the surface, the Labor Party has no agenda of annexation and the Greater Land of Israel. On the surface, it favors a two-state solution and so on. The philosophical background of the policy of "live by the sword" Barak-style could be found in the "security-minded" policy of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, which found expression in retaliatory strikes. This is a policy that bore many of the rotten fruits we are eating to this day.
From the standpoint of the voter in the 2009 elections, the background is not important. The very triumph of belligerence over hope is immediately translated into a victory of Likud and the right - those who officially hold the pessimism file. And the polls prove it. If there is no hope, no plan and no speck of light, would it not be preferable to have Bibi himself? If we are already talking about unbridled aggression, why not Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman?
Once again Barak has looked into the eyes of hope, and the latter looked away and returned to the Likud. Telling the truth is an important value. But a leader must do more - outline a constructive vision and instill hope. It's a question of priorities. With all due respect to the child who declares the emperor has no clothes, we first need an emperor.
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