Behind the Lines / Heroes at Mazuz's Expense

The government does not try to find a route that circumvents Mazuz. Instead, it prefers to have the justice minister, Daniel Friedmann, and the vice prime minister, Haim Ramon, attack the attorney general.

"In the State of Israel, legal advice is not advice, it is a commander in charge. The attorney general's office has become a command headquarters and the attorney general is the officer in command" - Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, reacting at the cabinet's last meeting to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's objection to cutting the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip

"It is a crazy thing that the other side is causing electricity outages in Sderot and we cannot cause an electricity outage in Gaza" - Minister Without Portfolio Haim Ramon, on the same occasion and on the same issue

No one in the Israeli government believes that cutting off Gaza's electricity is going to bring about an end to the launching of rockets into the northern Negev. None of the justifications that have been presented (that the move would be "an experiment," a counter-action, a measure that reflects disengagement from "a hostile entity," or an effort to help Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas) succeed in camouflaging the populist nature of the plan and its real aim: to convince Israeli public opinion that the government is doing everything it can to protect the inhabitants of Sderot and its environs.

Since everyone is aware of the high international price that cutting off the electricity to Gaza would entail for Israel, no one really wants to implement the idea. In this respect, the attorney general's ruling to the effect that the plan is contrary to international law is a lifesaver for the government. Mazuz is pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for it, preventing Israel from getting embroiled in an imbecilic, immoral and impractical measure in which it is in any case not interested. But the government is not comfortable admitting that. It is much more convenient to make the whole thing the attorney general's fault and to point the finger at him (just as Sarah Eliash, one of the heads of the West Bank Jewish settlers, did this week after a meeting with the prime minister).

Had the government truly wanted to cut off the flow of electricity to Gaza, it would have looked for a legal way to circumvent Mazuz's ruling. It is true that the Supreme Court has ruled that the attorney general is the authorized interpreter of the law and his interpretation obligates the government to take certain actions, but it is always possible to apply to the High Court of Justice for a different interpretation. It is a fact that other jurists (for example, Prof. Yafa Zilbershatz, of Bar-Ilan University) argue that in international law, there are various ways of imposing such sanctions as an electricity cutoff on a "hostile entity."

Such things have happened in the past: Yitzhak Rabin's government succeeded (with the help of the High Court) in deporting 400 Hamas members from Israel in 1992, despite the objections of the woman who was then the state prosecutor, Dorit Beinisch (now the Supreme Court president). But this government does not work that way. It does not try to find a route that circumvents Mazuz. Instead, it prefers to have the justice minister, Daniel Friedmann, and the vice prime minister, Haim Ramon, attack the attorney general. Each has reasons of his own that do not necessarily have anything to do with the security situation in the Gaza "envelope."

For Friedmann, it's an excellent opportunity to advance his agenda against what he sees as the excessive legalization of the government's work. More than he is interested in punishing the Gazans, he wants to butt heads with the Supreme Court (whose envoy Mazuz is, in this case). To that end, Friedmann argues that the attorney general has become "the commander in charge" of the government, as though the government had no alternatives.

For Ramon, the de-facto minister of information in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet, this is another propaganda maneuver, intended to create the sense that the government is hanging tough in the fight against Palestinian terror. Who knows better than he that collective punishment will lead to the opposite of the desired result? It will increase the Palestinian population's support for the Hamas government and seriously impede Israel's efforts to win international support for its policies. Ramon thinks it's "a crazy thing that the other side is causing electricity outages in Sderot and we cannot cause an electricity outage in Gaza?" What would really be crazy is to cause an electricity outage in Gaza. Ramon should bless the attorney general for having prevented this, but why do that when it's possible to be a hero at Mazuz's expense?

Extreme-right angel

"Move, you sons of bitches. I am a Beitar fan, I am an extreme rightist and I am going to f--- you all here" - Yossi Malakh, the suspect who is thought to have thrown the firecracker Sunday night in the Malha stadium, after his arraignment

Let us leave the curses aside for the moment. The interesting question is what impelled Yossi Malakh (whose surname means "angel" in Hebrew) to declare to reporters that he is "an extreme rightist." What is the connection between his political views and the throwing of a firecracker onto a crowded basketball court? From the circumstances of the declaration it is clear that this was a spontaneous cry of defiance of the rest of the world.

In rational terms, there is nothing in it that can explain the motives for the deed or give it any meaning. But in subjective terms, in the murky porridge bubbling in Malakh's mind, there is a tight connection between the two. For him, being "an extreme rightist" means belonging to a select and prestigious group. Malakh is proud to be a member of it. It gives him the legitimacy to "blow up" a basketball game and then say "f--- you all."

In this sense, he represents a phenomenon that goes far beyond the violence of sports fans. Like the collective manifestations of support by Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans for Yigal Amir, Malakh's statement reflects the new social status of the extreme right-wing camp: It has become a legitimate focus of pride and of a feeling of social belonging, in which violence is not just another way to achieve ideological aims, but rather the aim itself.