Quiet, We're Talking

Even if one suspects that any taxi driver could provide sharper insights, not to mention proposals for a solution - it's hard not to notice the uniformity of the outlook shared by all our experts and officers, whether retired or still in uniform.

Like the hero of Almodovar's latest film, "Talk to Her," who spends his days in one-way conversation with a girl in a coma, the "security elite" cleared its calendar this week to make nice speeches to our comatose situation. It wasn't long ago that the "economic elite" did the same in another well-publicized "Herzliya Conference," as these things are always called, the frequency and solemnity of these gatherings being proportionate to the degree of deterioration in the areas under discussion.

But as our security and economic situations sink deeper into catatonia, the sophistication of the conferences dedicated to them just seems to increase. Such a miserable, pessimistic and chaotic situation has probably never been described with such lovely rhetoric and splendid insights, and by the very people who helped put the patient in his present condition, no less. However, when they come to the conference, they're weighed down with academic papers, and their oracular pronouncements are quoted and accorded unusual reverence. Thus, this week we heard about the "strategic landscape" observed by Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, with the "tail-wind" propelling the Palestinians and the "four circles" (two close-by ones and two far-away ones) of the strategic threat. And we also nodded in understanding at the poser from the lips of the chairman of the National Security Council, who said that: "Against a mega-threat, which means genocide, Israel has a broad and varied range of capabilities, which ought not to be revealed prematurely."

And we were regaled once again with the defense minister's version of the riddle of the Sphinx: "Sooner or later, we will have to ask ourselves whether it is correct to continue with a policy of mighty endurance for the long haul, or to opt for a process of forcing a military-diplomatic decision." Uh-huh.

Even if one suspects that any taxi driver could provide sharper insights, not to mention proposals for a solution - it's hard not to notice the uniformity of the outlook shared by all our experts and officers, whether retired or still in uniform. One could say that a rare ideological consensus now exists among the diplomatic, security and military elite - though it's uncertain whether this is an encouraging or a worrisome development.

This consensus revolves around a number of uncompromising conceptions, which have become practically sacred in the past two years. The first: waiting for the war in Iraq - a marvelous, redemptive war that will solve all our problems in one fell swoop. Second: waiting for the Palestinians to experience the "consciousness of defeat" - for that glorious day when the realization of defeat simultaneously dawns on 3 million people. Third: waiting for a "mega-terror attack" that will be equally if not more effective than a war in Iraq in changing the entire situation. Fourth: waiting for Arafat to evaporate, after which it will be all blue skies ahead. Fifth: waiting for the day when Europe finally understands (perhaps after a mega-terror attack in London) that Palestinian terror has nothing to do with the occupation, but is part of a global wave of fundamentalist Islam.

All of these conceptions have a common denominator: They all justify the status quo. All are based on anticipation of a redeeming development that is out of our hands, all express faith that time will work in our favor, and all are fueled by messianic longings for the day when we can throw off all inhibition and restraint in regard to the territories and the Palestinians.

Since the eve of the Yom Kippur War, has there ever been such a uniformity of outlook that enjoys such wall-to-wall support? Not only is it uniform, it's intolerant, as it scornfully and angrily refuses to brook any doubts about its validity (as Sharon's scathing attack on Amram Mitzna and the Labor Party will attest). Above all, it's a conception that is united behind one man. Nowadays, any position that differs from that of the prime minister and those who have fallen under his dark spell is considered peculiar at best and traitorous at worst.

That doesn't necessarily mean that these conceptions are incorrect. But, as previous national tragedies should teach us, there's something troubling about the very monolithic uniformity of this chorus, which is brimming with self-satisfaction and mutual back-scratching, and silences any other voice with threats and contempt. Especially since this conceptual structure is already starting to show some large cracks: While, like children crowding over a fly, we've been busy huddling over Arafat and plucking his wings in order to encourage the Palestinians' "maturation of consciousness," the huge dragon of terror called Al-Qaida has loomed up behind us. While we've been busy trying furiously to scrape away any remnant of "Oslo" and the Palestinian Authority, the nihilistic terror of Hamas and Islamic Jihad has been exploding in our faces; and while we've been busy worrying that the evacuation of Netzarim would strengthen the "Palestinians' tail-wind," Tel Aviv is already in danger of a mega-attack - "meaning genocide."

But not to worry: Even if only a few of us are still around to witness "our broad and varied range of capabilities," which will only be revealed after our annihilation, the rest of us will always be able to hear about it (in necessarily vague terms, of course) at the next Herzliya Conference.