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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Israelis who don't get it

Over the weekend, I actually found myself agreeing with parts of this analysis by one of the Post's most leftist writers, Anshel Pfeffer:
A Ma'ariv TNS opinion poll conducted on the second anniversary of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria shows that 59 percent of Israelis now think the unilateral pullout was a mistake, while 29% still believe it was a good idea. The numbers are interesting since they are basically a mirror image of the polls from two years ago. Back then, close to two-thirds of the population was in favor and about 30% against.

This means that nearly a third of the Israeli public - who two years ago were all for dragging more than 8,000 Jews out of their homes and handing over the territory to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, giving them much more convenient launching pads for their Kassams, and getting nothing in return - now think they were wrong.

There are two questions you can ask: What made them change their minds, and why were they in favor originally?


The truth of the matter is that many who belong to that crucial third of the electorate - who changed their opinion over the last two years and are the voters who decide elections in Israel - couldn't articulate a serious case for or against disengagement, then or now. It's not that they are stupid, at least not all of them. It's just the apathy that has infected so many Israelis over the question of the future of the areas across the Green Line.

The steady attrition caused by years of terrorist outrages and empty promises of new solutions has laid waste to the ideological battlefield within Israeli society, blurred the lines between Left and Right and raised political cynicism and opportunism to new heights.

They supported disengagement because it was the brainchild of an immensely popular prime minister and was packaged and presented by the best spin doctors in the business, with the eager assistance of a compliant press.

As long as Ariel Sharon was in the picture and seen as a sure bet to win the next elections, disengagement was simply an extension of his popularity. Its swift and efficient execution was seen as another feather in his cap, propelling him to another landslide.

With Sharon gone and replaced by a government whose leaders are perceived as corrupt bunglers, tainted by failure in Lebanon, disengagement is now seen in a different light.

The inability of so many Israelis to judge the pros and cons of disengagement not in relation to the popularity of the current government is a sad reflection on the shallowness of public debate. That it boils down to a question of who has the better PR machine should be worrying to both those who support and oppose another round of settlement dismantling in the West Bank.

This week's poll shows that right now only 18% are in favor of more unilateral pullbacks, while 74% are against. But all that means is that the right spin doctors haven't been hired yet to sell the idea.
Sad, but true.


At 8:45 AM, Blogger Yaakov said...

I think this illustrates the truth of Abraham Lincoln's observation that, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

At 1:14 PM, Blogger the_raptor said...

It wasn't just a matter of disengagement being tied to Arik Sharon's popularity, but of trusting Arik's Sharon judgement. Sharon wasn't the type to harbor any illusions about all the positive reactions he was going to get from the Palestinians. But it was possible that he planned to trade a tactical withdrawal on the ground for gains he could collect on the diplomatic front.

Israel could show the uselessness of making concessions to the current crop of Palestinians. To some extent this has worked. The volume of leftists claiming that all would be well if only Israel ended "the occupation" has dropped. At least that's my impression.


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