Olmert, Livni toast the new year
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

Who are we?

If ever national soul-searching was called for in Israel, it is now

Do we know any longer? The signs are strong that here in Israel we have lost our way. We have now entered the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If ever national soul-searching was called for, it is now:


We are an ancient people, with a bond to the land that is 3,000 years old.


Driven out two millennia ago, we did what no other people has ever done – what the historians had thought was impossible: We returned to the land, with identity intact, and with the sanction of international law. We revived our ancient language and have flourished beyond all expectations. Time and time again, we defeated enemies against odds that were considered insurmountable. In the course of a defensive war over 40 years ago, we once again acquired the cradle of our heritage: The Old City, with the Temple Mount; Hebron and the Machpelah; Shilo; and more. A Jewish presence was returned to our ancient areas that had been rendered Judenrein by Jordan..


But we have a government that is apologetic about our possession of what is ours. We are being told we must give away areas that are historically Jewish, and quickly, because the “window of opportunity” is closing. What will happen if we don’t pull back to pre-’67 lines (lines, it should be noted, that were only meant to be temporary armistice lines)? The world won’t accept our legitimacy.


Excuse me? We are legitimate, in every sense of the word. The notion that we might require the present-day sanction of the United Nations would be farcical if it were not so serious; the UN, which may elect Iran to the Security Council.


The simple, unalterable truth is that the world respects us as legitimate when we respect ourselves. If there is a window of opportunity closing, it is the window to our own dignity and sense of who we are.


We are meant to be a light unto the nations.


With regard to hi-tech and medicine, we are precisely that. We have gifted the world with our advances far more than most people care to acknowledge.


We deserve better

But our national reputation has been sullied of late because of unprecedented levels of corruption. It matters not whether Ehud Olmert is ever indicted; the investigations and the testimonies have done their damage. The image is a dirty one, not befitting us at all. A light unto the nations must have sterling integrity.


We breathed a collective sigh of relief when Olmert submitted his resignation. As the process has since unfolded, Tzipi Livni, by a margin of 431 votes, won a primary that makes her the head of the Kadima party; if she is able to put together a coalition she will become our next prime minister.


A fresh start, you imagine? Hardly that.


Multiple charges have surfaced of irregularities within that primary – charges that are particularly significant because Livni’s margin of victory was so slight. These accusations have been made by supporters of Shaul Mofaz, the candidate who came in that very close second in the election, and by Avi Dichter, who was also a candidate, as well as serving as internal security minister. These charges are too serious to ignore.


There are complaints that hours of the polls were extended at Livni’s request because some of her supporters had not had time to vote. Meanwhile, Dichter has charged that “in quite a few polling stations, people who hold official positions in Kadima were walking around and crudely getting involved not in how to vote, but rather, whom to vote for."


Right now we are running the risk that Olmert will be replaced by someone who achieved her position via improprieties. Are we so inured to “irregularities” – have we sunk so low – that we accept this without a murmur?


A great cry should go up now from the people. We deserve – we must have! – Better. Demanding this would be a huge step towards reclaiming ourselves and who we are meant to be.


Arlene Kushner is a Jerusalem journalist and author


פרסום ראשון: 10.03.08, 01:17
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