We Shall Overcome

If Elections 2006 are testimony to a certain maturation of Israel, it has nothing to do with the success of the Pensioners Party.

"You don't have to be smart to get old," Groucho Marx used to say, "Anyone can grow old if they live long enough." And that just goes to show that there's not always a connection between maturity and chronological age. Indeed, if Elections 2006 are testimony to a certain maturation of Israel, it has nothing to do with the success of the Pensioners Party.

Indeed, from one aspect, the opposite may be true, considering the annoying one-night-stand attitude that accompanied the success granted by its young voters, who only regarded their vote as a kind of pseudo-demonstration of affection for gramps combined with a pseudo-escape from dealing with the basic "adult" questions - drawing the borders, peace and the territories - over which the elections were held.

The measure of maturity revealed by these elections therefore must be sought elsewhere, perhaps in those very places that were insulted and condemned with sniffs of the nose: "the quiet," "the public apathy."

The media and the politicians grew so used to the childish and violent political environment, which is so similar to mud wrestling in a kindergarten, that there's no wonder they were so disappointed by the "empty road junctions," the lack of microphones being grabbed, no brawls and shouting, punches and a little murder for dessert. There weren't even any hair-raising bumper stickers. In short, there's nothing to photograph except for plastic chairs and talking heads.

But is that necessarily a sign of "apathy?" Maybe it is evidence of a measure of maturity (or at least adaptation to the routine of elections, which take place every two years)? Maybe the low turnout is not necessarily evidence of political immaturity: it is indeed a regrettable phenomenon, but such turnout rates are common among Western countries, and in and of itself it is part of the democratic spirit, which allows freedom of embarrassment and alienation.

Bored and disappointed, the media searched through its old toybox and tried to pull out the plazas and piazzas, the scuffles and the old-fashioned sound and light shows, including a cacophonic replay of "Popolitika," the original talk and interrupt show. But what once was, is never more. Apparently, the age of the meaningless sound bites, the theatrical gestures and the political show from which Bibism sprouted, has passed, crashing in one grand swoop.

Nobody is particularly impressed nowadays by someone who mostly through the use of the proper makeup, stage sets and hand gestures managed to look like a prime minister - unless they appear on the TV satire show, "Wonderful Country." It is doubtful the maturation process Israel went through in the last few years could have happened without the parallel process of the wising up of Ariel Sharon, the wild boy of Israelihood; he who spent decades swamping the land with eruptions from the depths of political cynicism, maliciousness and irresponsibility and went through a speeded-up process of maturation when he became prime minister.

From that aspect, his sayings that "what you see from here you don't see from there," and "restraint is strength," were turning points in epic pedagogical poem of Israel: if the cedars of demagoguery, incitement and cynicism have fallen to thoughtful soberness, what will the mosses of Likud headquarter's "Ze'ev's Fortress" say?

Cliches were smashed, decades-old strident slogans were turned into dust by their speakers. From the moment Sharon sobered up when he met the constraints of reality, the broader public also ceased believing in the false promises, the empty cliches, the deceptive rhetoric. It turned out that in the world of statesmanship, unlike childhood, it is impossible to make the darkness go away by stamping your feet.

Suddenly, it appeared entirely illogical to continue to talk about annexing territories and millions of Arabs while at the same time declaring a Jewish, even a halakhic state. Suddenly, it seems infantile to defy the entire world just because Uzi Landau and the Hilltop Youth want to; suddenly, it is not at all clear that it is possible "to eradicate terror wherever it is located," without any political process, or to make peace without concessions; suddenly it isn't clear if the all-purpose solution is "to let the IDF win," after it has won over and over again; or to talk about "being strong" against Hamas and to rat out all sorts of rivals who want to divide Jerusalem, just because it sounds good.

In short, it became clear that it is impossible to defeat laws of nature, statistics and demographics, only through the force of words. Those who continued with the Likud and settler recitations from kindergarten - Landau through Netanyahu - simply didn't graduate to first grade this time. They stayed behind to mumble, "Dada," and "Bi-Bi, Bi-Bi," and "they are a-f-r-a-i-d," and "no, no," in an eternal nationalist childhood, happy and miserable at the same time (but that doesn't take brains, Groucho would say, everyone can be childish if they live long enough in their father's shadow).