Mommy, Mommy, Save Me

It looks suicidal to assault Israeliness in the knowledge that public opinion has already accepted not only the removal of the outpost but also the removal of the majority of the settlements.

There is nothing amusing about the behavior of the settlers, the extreme right and what remains of the Likud. Still, it does contain something of the logic of comedy. The comic hero - Inspector Clouseau, shall we say - gets into a tangle and defeats himself by means of a move that was doomed from the start. He disguises himself, tries to break into a house, slips into a ditch, slams against a wall, steps on his own shoe and in the end it turns out that the front door was open all along - on top of which, it's the wrong house.

A similar rationale is at work when both the settlers and Benjamin Netanyahu occasionally charge onto the stage of our lives in an attempt to break through into power and into the public heart. Yet they are unaware of the basic anachronism that they are weaving around themselves like a spider's web, or that with every such attempt they get farther from their goal and approach the extremities of the fringe and the bizarre.

Thus the settlers and their followers are capable of launching a war of Gog and Magog over nine structures in a remote outpost, and this after (not before) they have already lost an entire territory with about 30 settlements; and, on this occasion, their overt eruptions of violence and hatred against the state itself lose them the little public sympathy they had somehow managed to muster as the underdog in the Gaza disengagement.

It looks suicidal to assault Israeliness in the knowledge that public opinion has already accepted not only the removal of the outpost but also the removal of the majority of the settlements. But as though to pull the ground out from under their arguments irrevocably - especially the argument that they "represent the people of Israel" and "demand a referendum" - the settlers accuse the government of removing outposts only as a type of election bribe intended to capture the heart of the people, who are sick of them and their pranks and their settlementism! Do you get it, Wallerstein?

Logic there is none, but there is an irresistible impulse to aggravate a crisis atmosphere, to sow a feeling of fear even when this harms your own interests and even when fear of you has already been replaced by revulsion toward you. But, hey, some things are bigger than we are.

A similar situation obtains in the publicity line of the Likud under the leadership of Netanyahu, the eternal fear monger, who purports to fight the demons and vampires of the world with the aid of the old stick called "terrorism" and the bone-dry treasury of nullities known as "he will divide Jerusalem." To his distress, it turned out that these archaic shticks no longer work: no one is really frightened even of the partition of Jerusalem, and even the sarcastic ads - "Kadima [forward] to the 1967 lines" - were perceived by the public as hopeful Kadima propaganda and not as excoriation of that party. Accordingly, Netanyahu lost no time in backing another scared call for "Mommy!" in the form of a Hamas scare.

"Hamas is here! Iran is here!" Likud ads scream. "Sixty-five thousand armed men at the order of Hamas! Strong against Hamas - Benjamin Netanyahu!" Yes, it's Bibi, the man and the flag and the makeup. He is the schlimazel who saved Khaled Meshal and released Sheikh Yassin - he is now going to be "strong against Hamas."

Logic there is none here, either. On the contrary: it may be a case of self-defeat. Because it's clear where a campaign like this is leading: to an attempt to benefit (again) from every disaster and terrorist attack, all the while dancing on the blood - the same tack that made people fed up with Netanyahu in the past. But, hey, scare people we must.

It's an old habit. In every Israeli election campaign the parties and candidates compete not over who will infuse hope but over who will point out the gravity of the threats and purport to be strong enough to repulse them. (Even as they shouted "Mommy!" in the wake of the rise of Hamas, the security types competed over the question of why we did not scream gevalt beforehand and less over the question of what we were actually supposed to do even if we had known.)

Woody Allen says that as a boy he was sent to learn self-defense. On the way home, when a hooligan jumped him, he already knew what to do: I immediately resorted to the maneuver known as screaming and begging, he said. With this he may well have found the existential motto not only for an individual Jew but also for an entire people.