Photo: Hagai Nativ
Martin Sherman
Photo: Hagai Nativ

Something is rotten in State of Israel

Rewarding failure is becoming the prevailing norm in Israel

Q: What is the difference between the State of Israel and a lunatic asylum?

A: In a lunatic asylum, at least the management is supposed to be sane.

Popular Joke


The events of the last week dramatically underscored how close the biting cynicism of popular humor comes to accurately describing the theater of the absurd reflected in the machinations of the ruling elites in the country. Just stop for a moment and consider the Kafkaesque scenes that have unfolded of late before the Israeli public.


- I -

In the latest act in the on-going saga, we saw Shimon Peres being elected as president of Israel exactly on the day that the Hamas was completing its takeover of Gaza. It is difficult to ignore the bizarre symbolism in this development for it underscores the perverse principle that has emerged so vividly in Israeli public life – i.e. poor past performance, however dismal, however damaging to the national interest, has no bearing on the prestige, power or position that an individual may attain – even in the immediate wake of such failure.


For it is difficult to imagine any other occurrence that could demonstrate more clearly just how preposterous were the policies Peres advocated over the last two decades. It is difficult to think of any other individual who bears greater responsibility for the transformation of Gaza into "Hamastan" than the president-elect of Israel. It is difficult to conceive of any outcome that refutes more brusquely the claim that Peres' accession to the highest office in the land is a fitting culmination to his long career in public life.


For not only is he associated – perhaps more than anyone – with the initiation of the process that led to the establishment of an outpost of radical fundamentalism "five minutes from Ashkelon," but he also acquired his international prominence – which allegedly gives him "presidential stature" – by sponsoring a policy that exacted a terrible price from his own people, severely undermined the security of his own state, and wrought ruin on the Palestinians.


In spite of all this, on the very day that events of the ground provide incontrovertible proof that all the prestige that he has accumulated was based on nothing but an alluring brew of fanciful follies and falsehoods; on the very day that reality demonstrated beyond all doubt that he possesses neither political wisdom nor historical perspective, that his "grand vision" is nothing but an hallucinatory mirage that brought only calamity and chaos to those it was intended to benefit; on the very day that the utter failure of his alleged "statesmanship" was so starkly and irrevocably exposed to all; on that very day, somehow Peres, through the torturous, convoluted machinations of the Israeli system, found himself elected to represent the State of Israel


- II -

It should be remembered that this scene featuring Peres, was preceded by an early one starring Ehud Barak – in which the Arab vote decided who was to be the defense minister of the Jewish State. Moreover, this vote brought to office the very man that the Arab sector usually singles out as responsible for the "bloody events of October 2000," in which 13 Arab citizens lost their lives in clashes with the security forces.


But if the Arab support for Barak seems puzzlingly incongruous, his support among the Jews (and particularly among senior members of his party) in nothing short of astounding. Of course, the claim that Barak has expertise and experience in security affairs does have a convincing initial ring to it – until one remembers that … he was defense minister not too long ago, and was thrown out of office via the ballot box because of his abysmal performance.


Moreover, the major security problems that Barak will be called on to contend with – as an allegedly competent security expert – are all the result of his handling when he served as defense minister in the government headed by … Ehud Barak.


His flaccidity in facing the Palestinian gangs and his flight from the Lebanese militia constitute the "original sin" that eventually led to the takeover of the radicals in the south and the enhancement of their prowess in the north. Yet now, though the working of some bizarre inexplicable, illogical process, Barak returns to head the Defense Ministry, without providing the slightest clue of how he intends to improve his performance this time round; without giving the remotest indication of what he understands better now – after a six-year break in which he was not involved in national security or public life - than he did previously.


And all this takes place with the active support of his party, which he led to disastrous electoral defeat - and without any contribution on his part to its rehabilitation.


- III –

Of course, these scenes were played out against the backdrop of another one, played out by another prominent political protagonist – Ehud Olmert, who attained his position of prime minister not because of his own personal attributes, but rather, because of a quirk of fate. He acquired this office principally because, prior to the elections, he did not manage to erode, with sufficient pace, the public support amassed by his predecessor Ariel Sharon (a phenomenon in itself, worthy of the attention of students of the absurd – in view of the widespread and well-known corruption and the manifest feebleness of the response to Palestinian violence that characterized his government); and he remains in office despite the miniscule public support he enjoys and the almost universal desire to see him resign.


For Olmert, like Peres and Barak, the defeat of Fatah (which in the perverse terminology of the absurd is dubbed "moderate" – in spite of its overt commitment to the complete eradication the "Zionist entity") constitutes the ultimate negation of the raison d'etre for the continued existence of his party and the continuation of his incumbency – i.e. the contention that Israel, by means of unilateral "convergence", can determine its own permanent borders and long-term destiny.


After all, however grave the inquiries into corruption charges against Olmert may be, the man has never been suspected of excess honesty and never made claim to this. Accordingly, this character-attribute was never the basis for his election and thus the lack thereof can at best constitute only a secondary reason for his removal from office.


By contrast, it has become quite clear that he cannot implement the central plank of his party's platform and thus cannot deliver on his pivotal electoral promises to the voter. There is accordingly no justification for his continued stay in power – at least not without receiving a renewed mandate from the electorate. This is the way matters should be conducted – if we weren't trapped in the theater of the absurd.


- IV -

No administrative or governmental system can survive the ravages of irrationality that the Israeli system in presently being subjected to. No such system can sustain itself if it operates on the basis of disregarding the facts, ignoring realities - and bestowing lavish rewards on failures.


No amount of stock market peaks, of scientific advances or of technological advances will be able to fend off eventual collapse and catastrophe if this mode of conduct persists.


So before the final curtain falls on all of us, the Israeli public must be reminded of two things: (a) Unlike the inmates of a lunatic asylum, the Israeli citizen has the opportunity to elect the "management" - and to "un-elect" it. (b) In a democracy, the major drawback is that there is no dictator to blame for the fate of the nation. When the kratos (power) is in the hands of the demos (people,) it and it alone is responsible for its destiny.


It and it alone will bear the price of the absurd antics it allows its elected leaders to perform.


פרסום ראשון: 06.20.07, 08:11
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