The statements of various ministers arouse various gut reactions: Once again, Minister Isaac Herzog explained that we must examine Syria's intentions "cautiously and intelligently" - as though someone had suggested examining them hastily and foolishly. One feels like pinching his cheek: Buzi, Buzi, when will you grow up? When will you make a meaningful statement? You're a big boy already.
On the other hand, Minister Roni Bar-On sees Quneitra from afar and waxes poetic: "I see the buildings sparkling in their whiteness that blend into the landscape, so why shouldn't there be construction on our side? These are developments in peace and civilization. Even the Syrians understand that the border will pass through here." And one feels like slapping him in the face: Mr. Bar-On, don't play the big shot. Remember Israel Galili, who was more of a big shot than you, who heralded "the building of a deep water port in Yamit" - and gave us the Yom Kippur War.
A great deal of ink was spilled this week writing about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's policy of refusal, which is a sickening combination of Golda Meir and Yitzhak Shamir. Who didn't complain that the proud State of Israel exchanged blue and white for a flag with 50 stars; 51 to be precise, including us.
"How can we repay the kindness of our great friend by wronging it," is how the refusal was explained. "And how has a proud country become an American maidservant," challenged the critics. The explanation was nothing but a transparent excuse, and it is not difficult to see through it the real reason for the mulish obstinacy.
It was not Bush, but the occupation. The findings of the Peace Index survey published in Haaretz about a month ago indicated a clear trend: Most of the Jewish public is opposed to a full peace treaty with Syria in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights (67 percent are opposed and only 16 percent are in favor). Some 51 percent believe that sooner or later a war will break out between the two countries. And nevertheless, the public is firm in its opposition to a formula of total peace for all of the Golan.
There is nothing new under the local sun, which beats down and dries up people's brains. Only being beaten over the head with a club or a hammer opens people's minds here and leads to a painful sobering up.
That's what happened when public opinion refused to give up Sinai, and only after a terrible war did it accept an overall withdrawal down to the last of the settlements; and that's what happened when public opinion supported the first Lebanon War before it became complicated and contaminated and forced us to flee by the skin of our teeth; and that's what happened when our public opinion rejoiced in anticipation of America's war in Iraq, of which Israel is the main victim; and that's what happened only five months ago when public opinion goaded Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz into striking at Lebanon mercilessly, and during the first week even crowned the two military commanders with more than 80 percent support.
Politicians tend to flatter and praise their nations: a smart and wise nation, they say; the public is not foolish, they say. But when nations are in distress, they are liable to be revealed not only as laymen but as absolute lunatics. In times of anxiety, the voice of the people is not the voice of God. Public opinion is a rooster-shaped weather vane that rotates with the direction of the winds, the winds of foolishness; public opinion is shifting sands - from the right to the left, just sand, mainly sand.
If Olmert and Peretz and Peres and Herzog and Bar-On had seen contrary surveys, indicating support for a complete withdrawal in exchange for complete peace, you can rest assured that they would be singing a different tune to Israel, and that the Bush excuse would have been erased without leaving a trace. They are yet to see other days, other surveys, immediately after the next war.
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