Subj: Fw: Israel in the throws of death
Date: 11/30/01 11:23:48 AM Pacific Standard Time

Sent: Friday, November 30, 2001 1:24 PM
Subject: Israel in the throws of death

A pebble into stagnant waters (6)

With all being sucked into the quicksand of crises that the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has only made worse, there is one sinking that can be considered an achievement of his. He has succeeded in killing the Labor Party. In fact, he has almost entirely wiped out any internal criticism of him. In “Israeli” newspeak, this crushing of the political system is called unity. At no period of unity gevernment campfires has Labor been so pitiful. And never before has a former ruling party joined a chorus of silence like this one, made up of most of the opposition factors in society. Academia has fallen asleep. Peace Now, once an overflowing fount, has turned into a puddle. The media? Benjamin Netanyahu, wizard of the small screen, was their punching bag; Sharon has them wrapped around his little finger.

The one-man opposition within the government has become pathetic. Every time Foreign Minister Shimon Peres drops a hollow hint that he might resign, it sounds like he's crying wolf. Yesterday evening, his party's central committee was supposed to have reached some sort of ruling between two shadows of leaders on the question of who had cheated and how much at the primaries ballot boxes.

National politics has become a caricature of itself, and this picture has to change. No intifada can justify it any longer. Certainly not when the Labor Party, from its lowest depths, is helping Sharon scotch any diplomatic move.

There is no western nation where the minimum format of struggle for the government has been eroded to this extent. The health of “Israeli” democracy has been badly affected by the occupation ever since it began. Gradually, after the rise and fall of Yitzhak Rabin, it turned out that the illness of this shrunken party is a serious failure of leadership. It is not just that the alternative of Knesset Speaker Avraham "Avrum" Burg or Defense Minister Benjamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer is a Hobson's choice that kills the appetite.

Around them, a number of candidates - better or worse - have flamed out. Ehud Barak is the most frustrating case. The expectations from the successful native-born “Israeli” hero tumbled into an embarrassing fiasco of government. Even Shlomo Ben-Ami, a man with qualities that afforded him a high political level, is now trailing behind. From this low perch, he is proposing the Labor Party quit the government. This will happen only when Ben-Ami takes wing into the leadership, or when he himself quits the party of Sharon's petty clerks.

The only opposition that is threatening the prime minister is called Netanyahu, and at his side in the public opinion surveys marches the failure who succeeded him.

These political shallow waters are a symptom of a national decline. And if only for this reason, the resignation of some of the best people in the Labor Party is needed, followed by their shifting to a new center-left bloc. Yossi Beilin is denying that he has been holding talks about this with opposition leader Yossi Sarid (Meretz). But Beilin has nothing more to look for in a party that keeps plummeting like the rope after Sharon's bucket toward no peace agreement, a guttering economy and onward perhaps toward a governing mentality of fake and populist unity that lies to a fearful people. This is an ugly formula that has given rise to some of the worst governing formats in modern history.

All this should also be seen as a threat by those, a current and fairly firm majority, who do not believe in the chances of a peace agreement. This is because the process of despairing any agreement with the Palestinians has been accompanied by a flabby giving up on all the rest of the main national issues. The top level of academia has stopped participating in the public game. Grave terror attacks are putting to sleep the little oppositional fervor that remains in the “Israeli” intelligentsia. Gush Shalom, a determined but small group, is the only extra-parliamentary element that is waging any real oppositional struggle. Even the two most important poets in “Israel”, Natan Zach and Dalia Rabikovitch, are talking about the paralysis in creativity that has descended upon them because of the rock-bottom level of national discourse.

The resignation of Beilin and some of his colleagues would not be an earth-shaking event. But it would at least resemble throwing a pebble into the stagnant waters of a swamp. If it turns out that Beilin - one of the boldest and most creative people in the Labor Party - is also incapable of doing this, let him sit there and keep his mouth shut while his inventor, Shimon Peres, continues to lend his hand to the death of “Israeli” politics.