Today, the leaders of this camp know that Jabotinsky is the name of a street, and the words I just brought from a Beitar song should not be mentioned: Sons of kings? Why they present themselves as illiterate and ignorant and speak the language of the street and of the market as much as they can. "Kapayim" ("Applause!") has replaced "Annabel Lee" (an Edgar Allan Poe poem translated by Jabotinsky). Dr. Yuval Steinitz can only be selected in the Likud primary elections as a decoration from the academia.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau's decision to retire from politics and former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni's jump into the other camp rings the curtain down on a unique phenomenon in Israel's political life: The princes.
Granted, there were groups of princes in other parties too. But the national camp's group is unique in its behavior and in its understanding of reality in a different manner than its parents (apart for Uzi Landau, perhaps), teachers and masters and many of its voters.
Landau can testify that we were never friends. We hardly talked to each other. But every meeting between us, like meetings with the other princes, sent warm subconscious waves through my body and possibly through his body too.
We had joint memories, a shared language, an understanding with a wink. He spoke about his father, I spoke about my father. Even when we discussed national plans for the future, the conversation was wrapped with the joint past: The Mapai ostracism and persecution of our parents, the jobs they didn’t have, sometimes also the empty fridge.
The princes, with or without quotation marks, were an interesting phenomenon in the landscape of the national camp. This was the main focus of Gil Samsonov's research, which also characterized this camp by a division between the older leaders (Menachem Begin, Yohanan Bader, Eliezer Shostak) and the young leadership which sought to inherit them (Benny Begin, Dan Meridor, Roni Milo, Arye Naor and others).
Menachem Begin did try to crown the development town leaders generation (David Levy, David Magen, Meir Sheetrit, Moshe Katsav and others), possibly as his own compensation for the ethnic discrimination within the national camp as well – but these new leaders failed later on, also because of the latent hostility towards the different descent: The veteran, "Polish" leaders did not treat them too kindly. For them, they were always a "pool of voters" and nothing more.
When the princes' generation rose to power, the generation gap was revealed. While the fathers' generation burnt with the ideological fire it brought along from years of mutiny at home, in the Jewish leadership, during the British mandate, the princes were born into the government and realized – sometimes the hard and bloody way – that their parents' dreams ("There are two sides to the Jordan River, this one is our and that one too") were unrealistic, impossible.
From their positions in the government, they learnt the secrets of international policy and politics, and sometimes, with an aching heart, they gave up the ideology they were brought up on. After years of internal battles, some of them bid farewell to their political habitat: Meridor, Milo, Ehud Olmert, Livni, and some say even Benny Begin himself.
The world has changed. Uzi Landau hasn't got a chance left among his voters in the Yisrael Beiteinu party, who range from "the Land of Israel is all mine" to far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians, as stated by his party's leader, Avigdor Lieberman.
Landau left. The national camp's dream daughter, on the other hand, reached different conclusions. Tzipi, the daughter of Eitan and Sara Livni, crossed over to the other camp after learning the new reality in her roles as minister.
She left her friends to sing alone, "On the barricades we shall meet, we shall meet" – a song, almost an anthem, written about her mother. But is there anyone in the national camp today who is familiar with the words of this song?