If you hear the Israeli army’s famous battle cry “follow me,” right-wingers will stream after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And if an eye isn’t kept on opposition leader Isaac Herzog, he’ll be among those pushing to touch the Baba Netanyahu.
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On the other hand, if a similar call is made by what for some reason is called “the left,” everyone will run down a different lane, the Herzog lane, the Ehud Barak lane, the Yair Lapid lane or the Gabi Ashkenazi lane. At any given moment another star falls into that constellation.
There are so many leaders in the left-wing camp it’s like that quip by Ghawwar, the character played by Syrian comedian Duraid Lahham: “If you’re all leaders, now let’s find you a people.”
The right’s crisis stems from the fact that it’s galloping down a dead end. The state that the right is cultivating will lead to an apartheid state – if it wins legal validity, as even good people of both nations are demanding. It will be a state that excites the veterans of apartheid in South Africa.
But while the right’s path is a dead end, the left has no path at all. The reason is simple – DNA. The left’s raison d’tre from the beginning has been to conquer the land. And this healthy appetite doesn’t come from messianism, God forbid, but from real estate. Wave a piece of land in front of someone and you can drag him all the way down to Eilat, even if you live in Fassuta in the north.
That’s why ending the occupation, according to the Labor Party, isn’t a moral principle. The fact is, the people who decided on withdrawals were all right-wingers – Menachem Begin from Sinai and Ariel Sharon from the Gaza Strip. Yitzhak Rabin, during the Oslo process, did and didn’t withdraw from Palestinian cities. They keep going and sometimes forget to leave.
The Labor Party has no plans for the country’s borders. The party’s guiding principle is the more you can bite off from the neighbors, the better. Although it’s ridiculous to ask the Labor Party’s leaders to worry about Palestinian interests, an agreement that’s bad for the Palestinians won’t last.
A good trader is a fair trader, one who seeks to reach a fair deal so the other side doesn’t feel deprived or cheated. Such a culture doesn’t exist in Israel, and that’s the source of its tragedies. If the center-left views ending the occupation not as the ultimate choice, but as a situation of no choice, the right will continue to rule.
The left’s shrill cries aren’t being sounded because of the awful state of the Palestinians under occupation and closure. Most of the left only feels the pain of what’s going on in Israel – the attacks on NGOs, the media and the courts. As long as the left’s main agenda is to battle the side effects of the occupation in Israel, the occupation will continue.
Right now, in the absence of a path, there’s nothing but to listen to speeches, some of them brave, that point to the dangers facing Israeli society. But even though Barak said many correct things, does he have a comment on the future of the occupation? Aside from a few worn-out comments about security, he didn’t really say anything.
So absurdity and hypocrisy are in their prime. Everyone is busy making diagnoses, but only a very few are suggesting a treatment.
The speeches by Barak and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon were important, but if we borrow from the army its brilliant conjuring of strange nicknames, we can call them “atmosphere speeches.” They described the crisis, not the way out.