Tuesday, February 26, 2002

The Left Reconstitutes

Tuesday, February 26, 2002, 11:24:14 AM

The Israeli left is back and it has a new ideology: full retreat. There are, of course, a few mavericks within the Labor party, most notably Defense Minister Ben Eliezer and former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami, who have internalized the fact that the Oslo Peace Process approach has failed and are now advocating tougher measures to deal with terror. Most of the Labor party, however, and especially the authors of the Oslo peace nightmare including Foreign Minister Shimon Peres have continued their leftward drift and joined up with more extreme left-wing elements such as the virulently anti-religious and anti-Zionist Meretz and Shinui (Democratic Movement for Change) factions in advocating a full, unconditional withdrawal from Yesha (West Bank Gaza Strip,) without any conditions or even the declaration of a cease-fire. Peres is now fully backing a plan whereby Israel withdraws from the territories and recognizes a Palestinian State in eight weeks.What ever happened to "Land for Peace," the marching song of Labor? Both the left and right have come out from the delusion that turning over tangible territorial and strategic assets to enemies in exchange for meaningless promises from violent warlords is going to bring a real peace. Therefore, Labor, Meretz and Shinui have reached the end of the line, and decided to simply abandon Yesha without attaining peace. This is, in fact, the logical conclusion to the ten-year peace process.The peace process began in 1993 with then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's campaign pledge of "The three no's: no negotiations with PLO terrorists, no Palestinian State, no giveaway of the Golan Heights." By the time of his tragic assassination, he had broken the first two promises and was inches away from breaking the third. The Peace Process began with the signing of the Oslo I accords with "Jericho and Gaza first," an Israeli withdrawal from these two areas as a pilot test to see if Palestinian sovereignty could be achieved without endangering Israeli lives. When the pilot test failed and Israel experienced a crippling wave of terrorist attacks, Rabin and Peres were unable to admit the failure of the pilot program and coined a new sound byte, "We will pursue the peace process like there is no terror and fight terror like there is no peace process." After every attack, the defenders of the Oslo process would come out with their slogans, "We can't let one suicide bomber veto the peace process." Peace is, by definition, the absence of hostilities, and this concept of a paper peace being superior to an actual peace on the ground was probably the most significant and tragic break with reality that the left had to make in order to maintain their illusion of progress. The fact that there was no peace, that people were being murdered in vastly greater numbers than before the peace process began, became just a distraction. It would be about as logical for Roosevelt to say on December 8th, 1941 that, "We can't let the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor distract us from making a just and lasting peace with the Japanese." This had the unfortunate effect of making the Hebrew word "Shalom," "Peace," no longer associated with calm and tranquility, but with some sort of warped and doomed scheme which cost Israeli lives and produced only despair. Strangely, as it became more and more obvious that Arafat and the Palestinians were preparing for war, those who had subscribed to the peace process built it up to be something greater and greater. While Arafat was videotaped giving blood-curdling screams to mass rallies in Gaza for "Jihad!" the Labor Party was busy dropping its opposition to a Palestinian State, while the Israeli Army was intercepting huge shipments of illegal arms crossing into Palestinian areas, Peres was opening the Middle East Center for Peace Research.Today, now that their actions have resulted in a war, the left has taken the tack of supporting a withdrawal to the 1967 border, which raises the question: why? A partial withdrawal would seem more logical. Of course, Israel has to get out of heavily populated areas to avoid becoming an apartheid state, but that's exactly what it did a decade ago, and now 99% of the Palestinians live under the full control of Yassir Arafat or whichever local warlord is running the show in their area. So why withdraw to the green line? After all, the national consensus since 1967 has been that, since these lands were used as a staging point for two massive invasions of the country in 1948 and 67, and since almost every military expert unhesitantly says that retaining some of these lands is an absolute strategic necessity, and since most of the West Bank is unpopulated, open land, what is so holy about the green line? It is not even an international border, just a cease-fire line with no international recognition. This was done at the insistence of the Kingdom of Jordan in 1948 which believed that it would soon be able to conquer more land from Israel and thus did not want to set the borders in stone just yet.What the green line really symbolizes for the left is a return to the womb. "Withdraw from the territories, return to ourselves," reads the new left-wing bumper sticker, and this is quite telling. Israel before 1967 was a different sort of country. The Socialist Ashkenazi (Jews of European descent) secular minority had control of virtually all aspects of the government, from the labor unions and the hospitals to the military and the media, since they had gotten here first and built these institutions. After 1967, Israel began the gradual process of desocialization, decentralization, and free-market reform, a process which is still continuing today, and the left began to lose its sole control of the various organs of government. Today, Israel is a much more open and democratic society, and the Socialist left is in despair as its power continues to be redistributed in a more equitable and democratic manner among the religious and Sephardim (Jews of Middle Eastern descent.) Likewise, the settlements before 1967 were largely built by the Labor activists, whereas those after 1967 were built by the right and by the religious. This change was indicative of the decline of the left, and is why the settlements are so hated and scorned by the left above all else. I believe that the left correctly views the 1967 military victory as the beginning of the end of their unilateral hold on power, and therefore they subconsciously desire a reversal of this victory in order to regain their previous glory, hence the slogan, "Withdraw from the territories, return to ourselves." (to power.) Similarly, the destruction of the post-1967 settlements, all of them, is the destruction of the enormous physical accomplishments of the Israeli right. Likewise, Israel lost the sympathy of the world in 1967 when it ceased being viewed as a tiny country and became seen as a military goliath. Perhaps, then, if Israel puts itself in a completely indefensible position, living in constant terror of yet another Arab invasion, then it will regain the status of a tiny Jewish David versus the Arab Goliath?The truth is that it won't, that history has no "reverse" gear. Socialism is a proven economic failure, government bureaucratic control only hurts the economy. The right will never disappear, and the country is becoming more democratic by the hour. European sympathy for Israel before 1967 was as much a function of European guilt over the Holocaust as anything else, and Europe is now seized in a tantrum of violent anti-Semitism, so regaining international sympathy is out of the question. The clock can't be turned back, and the idea that it can is just another nostalgic illusion.When the war started, these psychological illusions came crashing down like any fictitious construct of human fantasy, and most Israelis have now faced up to the fact that their neighbors haven't changed and that the "Iron Wall" of impermeable defense coupled with strong retaliation is really the only recourse Israel has to terror. Peres and some of his friends, however, still haven't gotten it. Some day, it's going to hit him that pseudo-Communist theories about "a world without borders" and the evil of nationalism are wrong (in his biography, he boasts of having courted his wife by reading passages from Karl Marx's "Das Kapital.") Some day, Peres is going to realize that our cultural and religious distinctiveness is a source of pride, strength, and genius, not shame. Reality always breaks down the walls eventually, and the longer one waits the harder it hurts. It's going to happen to Peres and the authors of Oslo as well, but I wouldn't want to be in the same room when it does.

No comments: