Published in The Jerusalem Post on October 5, 1997
Shimon Peres is back to haunt the Labor Party. Last week he took to the airwaves to berate his successor, Ehud Barak, for apologizing to Sephardim “for the pain they suffered in the first years of the state”. At the same time, we were treated to another dose of classic Peres-ian day-dreaming, as he detailed plans for the operation of his new Peres Center for Peace, to be inaugurated on Succoth. He wouldn’t categorically deny talk of a political comeback, either, at the head of some sort of new ‘peace movement’.
Too bad that Peres can’t let go of the Labor leadership gracefully. He’s the Likud’s best friend.
Let’s take the ‘apology’ matter, for example. “I see no need to apologize”, intoned Peres. “We should stress the achievement (of aliyah absorption) as a source of pride and not magnify and perpetuate a sense of discrimination which never existed…..We in Labor have nothing to be sorry for or ashamed of….”, Peres concluded.
A sense of discrimination which never existed?! Is Mr. Peres speaking of Sephardic Israel or of the new colonies on the moon? Is he really so unaware of the pervasive resentment felt by two or more generations of Sephardic Jews towards the ‘establishment’? Yes, David Ben-Gurion and the Labor leadership were heroic in absorbing a million poor immigrants within the first decade of our national existence. But Peres’s studied ignorance of the mistakes made back then is the arrogance that cut off the sidelocks of young Yemenites and spirited them off to ‘better’ homes for ‘re-education’; that sought to decouple the ‘backwards’ Moroccan from his family and rabbi, in favor of ‘enlightened’ education elsewhere.
Because he lives in his own, self-constructed virtual world of the intellect, divorced from reality, Peres is unable to recognize Sephardi indignation, even when it defeats him three times at the polls, or to understand what Ehud Barak is attempting to do. Barak seeks to break-up the coalition of minorities that backed Netanyahu in 1996. Next on his agenda is a reconciliation of sorts with the Russian immigrants. So, while Peres stands on imagined principle, Barak will be touring Netivot and Nahariya to rebuild bridges for Labor, long ago burned by Peres-ian aloofness.
Now for the Peres Center for Peace. It’s a wonderful thing. Shimon can continue to cavort around Europe garnering support from Terje Larsen, Helmut Kohl, Butros Ghali, Lionel Jospan, Zbigniew Bzrezninsky and Jacques Chirac for wheat fields around Gaza, joint bio-technology farms with Egypt, industrial parks for Arafat, an international school for diplomacy, and tripartite town twinning between, for example, Brussels, Bir Zeit and Bnei Brak.
It’s just that he’s left behind reality. Reality is hugs for Hamas and bombs in the market. Believing in his therapeutic powers, Peres fed us the Oslo medicine; now, he elects to overlook the side-effects. That’s poor medical practice. Instead, Peres today focuses on making peace in the heavens, since the local version is harder to deal with.
“Science is more important than territory” Peres proclaimed last week, one of the many mantras he’s coined and ceaselessly repeated over the past three years. And only if the Palestinians are treated as equals, and are allowed their own state, will the terrorism come to an end and true peace ensue, he soliloquizes.
Well, we’ve heard such arguments before, haven’t we? First, Peres and his boys told us that if only we recognized the PLO and treated them as partners, they’d fight terrorism. Then we were informed that Arafat couldn’t really combat the bad guys unless he controlled the territory. Then, Arafat needed jurisdiction over the masses of the Palestinian population to become a serious partner in the battle against the fundamentalist, anti-peace kamikazes. And now, he needs a full-fledged state in order to get the job done.
Can’t you just hear the next fallback line of excuse? Yes, they have a state, Shimon Peres will explain to us down the road, but even the powerful Israeli army couldn’t stop the terrorists completely. Maybe if we gave the Palestinians a couple of tanks and combat jets……
In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority is having difficulty keeping the bombers and their controllers in jail for more than a day or two. “They escaped from prison. What should I do?”, poor Yasser Arafat miserably explained to reporters with Madeleine Albright standing at his side.
Perhaps Peres can arrange a French, Belgian and Austrian-sponsored, Jimmy Carter-endorsed, and Norwegian-funded training course in elementary penal system management for Yasser and his jailers. When they graduate and complete the term paper, we’ll all go out – Shimon, Terje, Helmut, Jacques, Yasser and I — to grow scientific wheat together in the fields of peace.