A particularly bitter joke holds that the difference between a farewell party and a funeral is that at the farewell party, there’s at least one idiot who believes what they say. I recalled this joke upon hearing the emotional local eulogies for Shimon Peres.
Peres was someone who accomplished a great deal, and as such, over the years, he suffered much criticism of himself and his actions. Leftists liked reminding people that he was the father of the settlements; members of the pre-state Palmach militia liked pointing out that he didn’t take part in the War of Independence; rightists accused him of signing the Oslo Accords.
And all that is without even mentioning what former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wrote about him in his autobiography, or a great many other accusations hurled at him, some with great justice.
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He did a lot, received a lot of criticism and stood the heat of the public kitchen, at whose center he remained throughout the years with great courage.
Most of the Israelis eulogizing him now not only criticized him, but also did everything in their power to push him out of the public sphere, to turn him from a statesman and a politician into a private citizen. And eventually, they succeeded.
Peres was a leader from the older generation, and also – which today sounds contemptible – from the old elites. The Israeli public, which is sick of those elites, turned its back on him and his ideas in the 1996 election and put Benjamin Netanyahu in power.
In this sense Rabin’s assassination wasn’t the murder of a political path, but the murder of a private individual. Had the Israeli public wanted Rabin’s path, it would have elected Peres to succeed him. But it elected Netanyahu.
In the process, Peres was gradually, and surely against his will, pushed out of the public arena. Even though he continued to occupy positions in Israeli public life, those positions were unimportant both politically and diplomatically, so effectively, he turned more and more into a private citizen.
His public activity, including that of recent years in the framework of the various positions he held, didn’t reflect the will of the Israeli public. Like its leaders, this public wanted to consolidate its position as the eternal victim, as a state living by the sword, one that incessantly reminds the world of the horrors of the Holocaust – not just to ensure their remembrance, but to turn them into a political weapons and a tool for justifying the suffering and injustice it inflicts on others.
Farewell to your ashes, Peres. It’s not pleasant to say so, but as a public figure, you were buried long ago by those eulogizing you today. And allow me to just add this: Their tears are crocodile tears.
They didn’t want the integration into the surrounding region that you offered. They didn’t want to leave the past behind and adopt the optimism, interest and curiosity about the world that you displayed. Education Minister Naftali Bennett can say you were his education minister from morning to night, but you aren’t the education minister of anyone in this country, because 20 years ago, in a democratic election that represented the people dwelling in Zion in exemplary fashion, Israeli voters put the Likud party in power.
They thereby told you what you stubbornly refused to hear: They didn’t want your dogmas, but other dogmas – ignorance, hunkering down and turning a blind eye. And sadly, all of these lead us to a road from which there is no return, a road to the abyss.