A spoonful of cynicism

Published in The Jerusalem Post on June 13, 1999

You know that you’ve been here a long time and become a real Israeli — when nothing in politics fazes you anymore; when you’ve become completely cynical, even misanthropic.


Indeed, the current coalition negotiations are a cynic’s delight. A spoonful or two of biting cynicism helps make it all believable.


Take Meretz, for example. “There is nor Shas without Deri, and no Deri without Shas, and therefore Meretz will *never, ever* sit in a government with Shas”, said Yossi Sarid last month. Now, Sarid waffles creatively, affirming that if Deri truly recuses himself from active political involvement with the party, Meretz could “consider” a partnership.


In the end, they *will* sit together, Meretz and Shas. The question is not how many Shas black hats will surround Sarid when they take the traditional, new-government photo at Beit Hanassi; rather, what size Sarid’s own black hat will be.


Of course, Sarid has no problem sitting with Meir Porush of Agudat Yisrael, the man who organized the big, bad demo against the Supreme Court, nor did he have any problem with Shas until Tommy Lapid came upon the scene…


As for Arye Deri, his criminal conviction ought to have shifted him down and out of sight. Instead, Deri is riding higher than ever, and gearing-up for sainthood status.


“Reb Arye” is no longer just a successful politician, the undisputed master of Shas. He is a martyr, moving up to the status of ‘spiritual’ leader — on his way to becoming “Baba Arye”, like the Baba Sali or Baba Baruch (Abuhatzeira). Soon, we’ll be hearing Rebbe-style miracle stories about Baba Arye’s mystical, magical powers…


How about Ariel Sharon? The arch right-wing general spent the election campaign snarling about the evil ‘smol’ – the wicked Left – and warning about the disaster and ruin expected if the Left were to be elected. Now Sharon is panting for a partnership with One Israel in government “because we’re not far apart on the major issues”.


This is also the guy who said that “anyone who transfers more than nine percent more of the territories to the PA endangers Israel”. Then at Wye Plantation he handily signed-over 13 percent of Judea and Samaria.


Didn’t really expect anything else, did you?


Candidate for prime minister Ehud Barak promised to draft the haredi yeshiva boys. Prime Minister Elect Ehud Barak is going to set up a committee to “study” the issue and ask the Supreme Court to give him lots more time for this very necessary “study”. Shlomo Ben-Ami now is talking about drafting only those boys “not seriously learning”. Even the Gerrer Rebbe would agree. Tell me you didn’t anticipate this.


Shimon Peres is still around too, to no-one’s surprise. He’ll always be with us — unless we can pawn him off to the UN. In 1996, he argued that Palestinian statehood was a bad idea. “We need integration, not separation”, he jabbered. Now, Peres is the world’s grandest proponent of Palestinian statehood.


Then there is Yitzhak Mordechai. The man who ran a campaign flogging his own credibility and trustworthiness, and who swore not to withdraw from the race no matter what, right to the end. Less than 24 hours before the polls opened Mordechai ditched it all — and yet he pays no penalty. Mordechai still expects us to consider him a reliable politician.


David Levy is a riot, my favorite. Just what party or faction is he a member of this month? His hawk-to-dove-to-hawk transformations are terribly hard to follow. Flavor of the month.


This guy couldn’t even get his son, Jackie, elected mayor of his own hometown and power base, Beit Shean. I doubt that Levy was worth more than 50 votes (all family) to Ehud Barak’s One Israel coalition. But this doesn’t stop Mr. Levy from viewing himself as a very senior and important coalition figure and from demanding the Foreign Ministry for himself.


Chutzpah, you say? Completely predictable.


The admirable example set by Bibi Netanyahu and Benny Begin has not rubbed-off on the NRP’s Rabbi Yitzhak Levy. Everyone else is to blame, except him, you see, for the NRP’s abject failure in last month’s vote. The National Union, Shas, Meimad – anybody and all are to take the rap for NRP’s disintegration. Just not Levy or his number two, Rabbi Druckman.


Remember Ronnie Milo waxing eloquent about his new Center Party, a party that will exist for “generations and generations”? Milo is now savaging the party and his colleagues in private, and publicly wriggling his way back to the Likud. In truth, Milo is eating himself alive for missing the Tommy Lapid anti-haredi bandwagon, a mantle he would have been glad to appropriate for himself.


So stock up on cynicism. Take two tablets a day, and nothing will shock you.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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