Honey, the Narrative Has Shrunk

After three years of total, monopolistic domination, something is starting to crack in the exclusivity of the political-military worldview that has seized control of our lives.

After three years of total, monopolistic domination, something is starting to crack in the exclusivity of the political-military worldview that has seized control of our lives. The reason for this may be a respite of sorts in the murderous, maddening terrorist attacks that nourished the escalation and "consciousness burning" school of thought and ensured general consent also for its more bizarre manifestations; or the reason may be the bankruptcy of a sterile political conception, which all in all has failed to achieve the majority of its declared goals. One way or the other, something is starting to give in the uniformity of thought, and that's a good thing in itself.

We can perhaps clasp our hands in anguish at the end of the pleasant, if also moldy, warmth created by an absence of internal dispute - probably the only small consolation in these wretched years; we can perhaps be outraged at the letter of the pilots and their supporters and be furious at the intellectuals who went to court over the legality of an Air Force mission, or mockingly shrug off the resumption of the street demonstrations of the Old Left. In short, we can shout until tomorrow that everything is "political" (a word that becomes dirty only when applied to those on the right) and try to extend the phase of "quiet, we're shooting" a bit more. However, it's doubtful that it will be possible to glue back together the exotic vase known as life without an opposition narrative which is an alternative to the narrative of the army, Ariel Sharon and the settlers.

Yes, those three entities are effectively the true registered owners of the "general agreement" around which we have supposedly united for the past three years: the settlers, Sharon and the army. And as though to prove this, they are the very first to take up positions on the wall of the temporary consensus, ready to pour boiling oil on anyone who tries to undermine it with so much as a crack. It's true that the anger at the pilots' letter about refusal to fly combat missions in the territories and the High Court of Justice petition by the writers and intellectuals encompasses broad circles of the public, but take note of the unusual rage of the settlers and the officers: look who's ranting about "violating orders"; look who has suddenly adopted stately behavior: it's no accident that precisely the settler Zvi Hendel is calling for a boycott of the writers who submitted the High Court petition; no accident that precisely the settler Uri Ariel is calling on El Al passengers to boycott the company's pilots who are among the signatories to the refusal letter.

And who is standing at their side in the forefront of the campaign against the breachers of the conception if not the group of officers who fomented it? Look who's talking against "politicization in the army," if not the same bomb-happy commander who praised the settlements; or the former flagrantly Likudnik escalationist chief of staff of whom Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Mazza wrote: "The fact that a person who just a few months ago wore an army uniform with the rank of lieutenant general is running in the elections, gives rise to the apprehension that the decisions he made not so long ago within the framework of his military position were influenced by his political views."

It turns out, then, that the "general agreement" of the past three years, which was mistakenly considered public property, has concrete owners. And not just anyone, but materialistic, fanatic masters, who turn aggressive when any of the sub-lessees exceeds the terms of the lease or threatens the property that is registered under their name. In other words, we lived for three years with an imaginary consensus, which stemmed mainly from sheer exhaustion and effectively covered a covert political agenda - the one espoused by the "annexation coalition." This wasn't felt as long as the public acted like a frightened herd, because of the fear of terrorism, and flocked to the shelter of the narrative that states "there is no one to talk to," that "Arafat has to go," that "the Palestinian Authority must be vanquished," that "no negotiations will be held under fire," and that "the Americans will bring down not only the eastern front but all those who hate us."

However, as soon as there was a halt, even if only momentarily, to the cyclical ritual of terrorism-revenge-escalation-assassination, which nourishes this narrative, it began to emerge that this conceptual structure does not rest only on the foundation of "the terrorism." More and more Israelis are beginning to suspect that the terrorism is only an alibi, and that underlying the conception is the refusal - the deep, absolute, genuinely religious refusal - to give up the settlements. All the rest is only excuses and pretense.

Every government that enjoys parliamentary support has the right to implement its policy and its worldview, provided it does so openly and declares the truth that guides it. Sections of the public, such as the settlers, and even state bodies such as the army, have the right to try and exert influence - provided they don't have pretensions of exclusivity and don't try to nullify every other point of view. It's doubtful that these two conditions exist in today's Israel. The government is lying about its true motives, and its partners, the settlers and the army, are behaving as though they have inherited the controlling shares over our lives.

All the surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the public is ready to forgo the settlements. However, the "annexation coalition" has never recognized the spirit of democracy, just as it has never accepted the shrinking of its narrative: not when it was in the opposition and made life hell for a prime minister who introduced a different agenda, and not when it is celebrating three years of an imaginary victory and trying - with the same ruthlessness as before - to make life hell for everyone who so much as voices an opposition-like squeak.