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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Israelis disappointed with non-ideological government

This morning's Washington Post has a lengthy article that discusses Israelis' disappointment with the current government. While the article is correct that Israelis are disappointed in the 'new generation' of leaders, it missed the point: the disappointment arises from the lack of ideology in the new government - something which was obvious before the election to anyone who looked at its 'platform' - which has led the government to try to take short cuts and to use simple solutions where they simply won't work.

Back in mid-March, I blogged an article by Caroline Glick called The End of Idealism. In my introduction to that article, I noted the following:
We made aliya in 1991. When we came to Israel, this was a country of idealists. Right or left, religious or anti-religious (because there didn't seem to be any such thing then as 'non-religious'), Israel was a country where everyone cared passionately about everything, everyone had an opinion about everything and any issue you raised could be argued back and forth for hours by people who really cared about it.

Sometime in the mid-90's that all changed. Suddenly, with the arrival of the 'Oslo accords,' it seemed that what many people wanted most was to be a 'normal' country. To be 'like all the other nations.' To be able to go into shopping malls and movie theaters without having your bags checked. To go on vacation without having to re-arrange reserve duty. To come and go as we pleased. To pay a (semi) normal tax rate. Some people warned that being a Jewish state in a sea of Arabs, we could never be a 'normal' country. But those people were dismissed as ideologues - mostly of the right. Then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin dismissed them as 'propellors.'

With the onset of the Arab terror war against Israel, the failure of Camp David and Ehud Barak's subsequent pre-election attempt to give away the country in late 2000 and early 2001, with the realization that the Arabs really would not let us be a 'normal country,' many of us thought that the anti-idealism was gone and that people would go back to caring passionately about things. And in fact, one still sees that at the right and - l'havdil - the left fringes of the electorate.

But in this election, despite their decline in the polls, Kadima Achora continues to lead. It leads despite not having any ideology. It is all things to all people. No one knows what it stands for other than being 'normal,' being tired of fighting and being ready to surrender. No negotiating partner? Kadima - withdraw unilaterally. No economic plan? Kadima - we'll decide that later. Make the country more religious or less religious? Kadima - let's see who's in the coalition and then we'll decide.

How has Israel come to this? How have we reached a situation where the party that is leading in all the polls (assuming that the polls can be believed) is a party that stands for nothing? A party that is a shell into which each person inserts whatever content they deem desirable?
Caroline Glick blamed it on the introduction of slick public relations people into Israeli politics. That may or may not be correct. What is correct is that the lack of ideology has come back to bite us. And that is only hinted at in the Washington Post's article. Here's the hint:
Isaac Herzog, the 46-year-old tourism minister, is one of Israel's political "princes."

His father, Chaim Herzog, built Israel's military intelligence agency before serving as ambassador to the United Nations and the country's president. His grandfather was Israel's first chief rabbi, and one of his handwritten prayers for the new state hangs on Herzog's office wall. [Rabbi Meir Kahane HY"D used to refer to Chaim Herzog as chometz ben yayin - vinegar the son of wine. I shudder to think how he would have referred to Isaac Herzog. CiJ]

As a boy, Herzog's neighbors in Zahala, a suburb of Tel Aviv, included Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, hero-generals of the wars and political battles that helped define the modern state.

"My father and his compatriots focused on security and the economy, but I became interested early on with talking to the Palestinians and in issues like the environment and human rights," said Herzog, who speaks Arabic.

"The whole system of values has changed," he continued. "I would say our generation is more willing to compromise, less willing to see ideology as holy."
That's the problem in a nutshell. To 'compromise' you must suspend your understanding and your belief system. It is the suspension of our true understanding of what the Arabs are and what they stand for that led to this summer's two-front war, which is continuing with more Kassam attacks from Gaza this morning. The Arabs don't want us here. It's not about borders and it's not about land - we are infidels intruding into 'their' territory. The Arabs will never wholeheartedly accept the existence of a Jewish state anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Abandonning ideology means forgetting that reality. It's a recipe for national suicide.


At 11:05 PM, Blogger ShumBaayaMyLord said...

I can't remember whether it was Fall/Winter 2003 or 2004, but anyway I attended a lecture at Harvard Hillel by Yossi Klein Halevi, concurrent with the paperback release of his last book.

I asked whether the kind of backbone and resilience issues (about national survival/continuity) that Yoram Hazony had postulated in his 2000-copyright "The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul" were potentially still a problem in the Palestinian terrorist onslaught. Halevi responded that he saw the nation as having in general gained a good deal more resolve and having shed the bulk of its Oslo-era illusions.

In short, Halevi said, his friend and Shalem Center colleague Yoram would probably have to revise significant portions of "The Jewish State" if he wished to re-issue it now.

I like and respect Yossi Klein Halevi immensely, but in this instance I think he spoke much too soon...


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