Shock Treatment

This ambivalent attitude toward the prime minister is just one example of the ideological shell-shock that has afflicted the peace camp.

The left is sunk in great confusion. Some of this confusion is reflected in the contradictory views that its spokesmen voice about Ehud Olmert - should it support him, as the leader of the peace process, or work to oust him, as the man responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War? Is he truly committed to the diplomatic process and willing to pay its full political price, or is this merely a giant spin, a virtual process, aimed at ensuring his political survival?

This ambivalent attitude toward the prime minister is just one example of the ideological shell-shock that has afflicted the peace camp. It began with the second intifada, deepened with the war in Lebanon, intensified with the Winograd Report and is now reaching its peak over the most pressing question on the national agenda - how to solve the problem of Hamas in Gaza. The issue of Gaza has revealed surprising trends on the left that bear witness to its identity crisis and completely blur the traditional distinction between it and the right.

Take, for instance, the latest views espoused by Yaron London, someone who has always been considered a leading member of the peace camp. "It seems that we have exhausted the attempt to cool Hamas's fanaticism via measured action," he wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth. "The time has come to overwhelm the population of Gaza via actions that until now, we have viewed as abhorrent." To what actions is he referring? For example, assassinating Gaza's political leadership, starving the population and even bombing crowded urban areas, which would likely result in hundreds of deaths, if not more ("I think a quarter of a neighborhood would be enough," he told a stunned Razi Barkai on Army Radio).

Some on the left view this position as meaningless "overstatement" - just another expression, albeit an unusually extreme one, of London's nonconformism, his need to escape traditional political categories and astonish his public. I respect him too much to view his statements as a personal caprice or media stunt. I believe him when he defines his recommendations as a rational conclusion reached after examining the possible modes of action "with my mind and heart."

This is not the place to argue over the efficacy or feasibility of London's proposals (in the meantime, the resounding failure of the policy of besieging Gaza speaks for itself). The problem is that he represents more than his own private torments. Wide swathes of what was once considered the "peace camp" have despaired of the process of dialogue and adopted a pragmatic, power-based approach that used to be alien to its thinking and its basic principles. One can accept pragmatism in certain contexts, but not when it translates into support for war crimes - such as Haim Ramon, another declared dove, similarly expressed during the Second Lebanon War ("carpet-bomb the civilian infrastructure").

For generations, spokesmen of the left (and some decent spokesmen of the right as well) viewed the supremacy of the law and morality as a cardinal rule of politics, both as part of Israel's humanist self-image and for the sake of its national interest. One does not need to be a "bleeding heart," or even a leftist, to shudder at the craven abdication of every moral dimension of Israeli policy and the support for committing brutal crimes in the name of national security. The question of whether this will contribute to solving the problem is irrelevant. The true question is whether anyone is prepared to live in such a country.