Photo: Reuters
Most Israelis supported the disengagement. IDF soldiers prepare to leave Gaza
Photo: Reuters

The essence of being Israeli

As usual, ordinary Israelis have figured out what the country needs faster than the leaders

There is only one interesting thing about the boring elections next month: They aren’t really about what we are being told.


These are not really about socio-economics or national security or even about personalities. In any case there isn’t one candidate with the charisma of Begin or the shy charm of Rabin or the love given to Sharon.


No, these elections are about something else entirely; they are about the essence of being Israeli.


The previous election campaign was more of a tribal struggle: Secular against religious, right against left, settlers against anarchists, Arabs against Jews against Russians against the ethnic genie who is about to run out of magic lamps from which to emerge. From the crown of Shas to the threatening face of Lieberman, each one grabbed his corner of the sacrificial altar.


Each voter went to the ballot box feeling his job was to protect the people most like him from the people who want to convert him to be more like them.


Regaining the nation


Then came disengagement. I recently spent an alcohol soaked night in shouting matches with supporters of the national religious parties. I tried to explain to them that their thinking contradicted itself.


Most Israelis supported the disengagement, not because of getting out of Gaza, although we were happy to leave, but this wasn’t the core reason. Disengagement succeeded because Israelis remembered how to behave as a nation.


Once every few years something happens or piles up so that the large, sleepy monolith decides to get out of bed and do something. It doesn’t really matter what, the crucial thing is that it dawns on us that we are still capable of making a decision, standing by it and seeing it through without someone tricking or messing around with us.


Pathetic has-beens


We are beyond being intimidated by photos of masked gunmen or having the vote’s outcome sabotaged by the droopy eyelids of MK Rabbi Avraham Ravitz (I do understand him. Lots of children, small apartment, where else can he catch a few winks?).


As soon as the disengagement was implemented and no sooner than we succeeded in doing something, we fell in love again, because most Israelis would prefer to be a country. They prefer to be a country that wants something more than always assigning blame.


They believe – and rightly so – that the larger the problem facing us the easier it is to solve if everyone pitches in to help: Those who represent the poor in the struggle against the rich divide us. Those who blame the Hamas victory on the other political party divide us. Those who say they have God in their pocket split into eight different political platforms, divide us too.


This used to work but now we don’t want the divisions. The last time I was in the army the term was a nickname for someone who was schizophrenic. We are choosing sanity this time around.


There is something sad about how the has-beens are trying to run yesterday’s election campaign. You see on their faces that they don’t get it. They are using arguments that made sense up until about a minute ago, slogans that were once clever, and posters that no one looks at. They think they are fine but the reality is that we’ve moved on and they have been replaced.


Because as always in Israel, the public gets it faster than the leadership. The people understand that we are a moment away from falling apart and have decided to do something about it.


To be Israeli


To be Israeli is not flying the flag over a storm of rock throwers at Amona. Nor is it sitting next to two frail and confused old folks at a soup kitchen and sympathizing with their situation.


To be Israeli is to understand that you belong, and to belong means that we don’t discuss the debate. It is about our ability to live with it.


In the upcoming elections Israelis will vote for whoever tells them they are 'one nation' (difficult as it is to ignore the irony that this was the name of the party of current Labor Chairman Amir Peretz.).


Somehow, most of the public understands – with an attack of maturity that will surely pass at some point – that the bigger threat to our existence is not hunger or a Qassam rocket attack; it’s to die alone.


Choosing a director-general


Just when we thought that what unites us could not be pulled asunder; Israelis began to divide, each to his own tribe. Some 20 years ago the center seemed so confident that it was acceptable to fight about the fringes. Each group had its fans standing outside the stadium hurling stones inside.


But after five such elections, people are beginning to get fed up. Factions are acceptable but only on condition that they all flow into the same river.


This time Israel is not be choosing a leader to make history or a statesman with vision. We aren’t even voting for a CEO. We are actually looking for a Director General, someone to run the business, who will rebuild the culture of organization and remind us that in the Zionist enterprise every one punches a time card.




I received an email from the Geneva Accord people. Anyone who has Internet knows all about this kind of letter. Masses of them fly through cyberspace and most people don’t bother to open them but for some reason, this one I did. Along the email’s margin was written: “If you do not ask to have your name removed from the mailing list we reserve the right to include you in our newspaper campaign as a supporter of the Geneva Accords.”


Let me explain to those who have not yet hooked up: You get all this unsolicited junk mail, buried deep in the hundreds of letters which are all trying to sell you every and anything from Viagra to self enrichment according to the At. If you do not open and read the small print and spend the time asking that your name not be used for causes you do not support, well, the process spins out of your control.


If a survey is published in the near future, that indicates that 70 percent of the public supports the Geneva Accords, assume it is invalid. It’s that 70 percent of the public simply don't open emails from people they don't know.


By the way, I made the effort and asked my name to be dropped from the list because I believe that deviousness and deception are okay in war but peace needs to be achieved through honesty.


פרסום ראשון: 02.15.06, 23:04
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