When you ask Labor Party chair Shimon Peres about the problem of the second generation of Israeli politics, he makes a face and says "They're spoiled." They are simply spoiled brats, says the 81-year-old young man about the 50-year-old old men who are unable to succeed him. Peres is right. The political generation that grew up with the state is a spoiled generation. It doesn't have Peres' (and Prime Minister Sharon's) vitality. It doesn't have Peres' (and Sharon's) capacity for work. It doesn't have the powerful commitment of Peres (and Sharon). It doesn't have the most important quality of Peres and Sharon: the willingness to roll up their sleeves and to plunge their hands into the garbage dump. And to keep on burrowing there until they finally come up with some diamond.
At the end of summer 2004, the diamond is the disengagement plan. Disengagement is not the end of the conflict. It isn't even the end of the occupation. Disengagement is not a messianic proposal. It's not a vision for the End of Days either. But disengagement is a genuine, practical and detailed plan to save Israel.
Disengagement is a dry, practical and sober course of chemotherapy, which is designed to deal with the cancer of the occupation. That is why disengagement doesn't have a halo of peace. It does not contain a promise of a final status agreement. It is not wrapped in the sweetish cellophane of the imminent Redemption. However, it does contain the first commitment of its kind to deal seriously with the moral and demographic tumor that is endangering our lives.
For this reason, disengagement is first and foremost a test of maturity. After 30 years during which nobody here has taken responsibility for anything (with the exception of Ehud Barak on the issue of the withdrawal from Lebanon), disengagement is an act of assuming responsibility. After 20 years of inane virtual politics, disengagement is a genuine attempt to carry out a real political act here. An act that is not spin. Not an optical illusion. An act that is actually attempting to change the outline of the reality on the ground.
However, the spoiled generation of Israeli politics is not built for such deeds. This is a generation that is interested only in tomorrow's headline. This is a generation whose only field of expertise is the deal to be made at the next meeting of the party's central committee. This is a generation of the giants of television's political talk shows, "Popolitika" and "Hot Mishal." A generation of distributors of political patronage, who have never planted a tree or built a house. And for that reason, there is no chance that these idlers will be capable of uprooting a tree or destroying a house. There is no chance that they will be able to rescue Israel from the trap of history in which it has imprisoned itself.
During the past two weeks, things have come into sharper focus: There is no difference between the spoiled brats of the Likud, the spoiled brats of Labor and the spoiled brats of Shinui. They are all surrounded by their image consultants. They all butter up their vote contractors. They are all slaves to irrelevant considerations connected to their party's primaries. Although there are talented people among them here and there, they are totally incapable of functioning as a national leadership. They are too cynical, they are lightweight, they are unworthy.
However, being spoiled is not characteristic only of the politicians of the second generation. It seems that at the end of this summer, the entire Israeli public has devoted itself to an atmosphere of spoiled complacency. There is no genuine political activity here to carry out the will of the majority. There is no serious national preparation for the cruel clash with the minority. There is no overall understanding of the fact that within a few months, Israel will be facing a supreme existential test. And again, as in 1995, the old admirals of a critical move are facing the waves alone. They are trying to do their best with their broken steering wheels.
The spoiled brats of the left will never accept Ariel Sharon. The spoiled brats of the right will never forgive Shimon Peres. But both groups must understand that at this juncture, one cannot stand outside the garbage dump and roll one's eyes. The pure-minded left will never be able to evacuate even one flowerpot here. The fanatic right will not be able to withstand even one serious battle here. So that if the Sharon-Peres disengagement isn't carried out in the coming year, Israel's chances of survival will decrease sharply. For that reason, the spoiled brats have to stop being spoiled. Despite all their shortcomings, Sharon-Peres appear to be the only chance. They're the last hope.
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