Published in The Jerusalem Post on January 26, 2003
It has become common to describe this election campaign as boring and unnecessary. Little change is expected, and little good will ensue. Nevertheless, I think that it has been a very useful campaign; one that has a clarifying and illuminating effect on Israeli politics.
For all the talk about corruption of our political system – in the Labor Party too, but especially within the Likud – the polls show that Likud barely has been hurt at all by the daily-breaking “scandals” and breathless “revelations”. Why?
Apparently the public instinctively knows that corrupted balloting procedures and possibly illegal debt repayments are not the *real* scandals that affect the fate of our nation. The overarching and fundamental scandal of the past decade – the real issue in this election because it still defines our future – is the disastrous Oslo process, brought to us, and still advocated, by the Labor Party.
No amount of obfuscating scandal-mongering noise can mask this essential reality, and the public isn’t easily confused. “The Palestinian issue” — how we got to today’s miserable situation and who blindly led us to this “New Middle East”; how to best crush Palestinian terrorism; and how not to bow to Arafat’s wishes – these are the chief calculations that factor into our voting decisions.
We now have clarity. After years of pulling the wool over our eyes – insisting that they, too, would never re-divide Jerusalem or tolerate terrorism — Labor has finally owned-up to the legacy of the Oslo monster it created.
The Labor leader, Amram Mitzna, readily has declared that he would pick-up negotiations – with Arafat! – from the point where Ehud Barak left off. Even without a cessation of Palestinian terrorism. The Labor Platform no longer calls for a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, not even on the Temple Mount. Taking down most, if not all, settlements would be a central Labor government priority. Everything is now clear.
Moreover, Labor’s heroic new leader essentially has said that he prefers a Labor government with the even-more-radical Left and Arab factions than a government of national unity with Likud. That is the only possible political interpretation of his publicly-sworn promise not to enter a coalition led by Ariel Sharon.
Finally, when all the chips are down and it gets desperate, Labor talks of falling back on its truest of true, most representative “asset” – Shimon Peres. His ghost and his ideology still permeate Labor politics and positions no matter how hard the party tries to move beyond him. Clarity, indeed.
Too bad that we don’t have Peres in the running to defeat once again. The sad situation of the Labor Party reminds me of the joke published in *Makor Rishon* after the 1996 vote. “Peres Still Leads in the Polls”, ran their sarcastic headline – the day after Peres lost the election for an umpteenth time.
The far-far-left also has solidified and removed any vestiges of vagueness from its platforms. Yossi Beilin and Yael Dayan moved to Meretz – their more natural home – and now cheerfully acknowledge that they would support the Palestinian right of return, within “acceptable” limits (sic). They also openly advocate the transformation of Israel into a “state of all its citizens”, with undifferentiated, non-religious, Canaanite criterion for acceptance into the “Jewish People”.
What about Ariel Sharon? He too has made plain his newfound fondness for diplomatic solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; solutions that involve “painful compromises” – as if we haven’t very painfully compromised more than enough already! His affirmed preference for a national unity government is understandable and laudable in principle. But given the potential “unity” partners, and the expected global pressure on Israel to “compromise” after the coming Gulf War, this preference bespeaks diplomatic weakness and capitulation.
In the meantime, our Supreme Court also has made its political preferences crystalline clear. It ruled *out* Shaul Mofaz, while ruling *in* radical Arab candidates for Knesset. It *allowed* Balad to fly the PLO flag in its election commercials, but *disallowed* Shas from broadcasting parts of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s weekly Torah sermon in its TV advertisements. And of course, His Royal Highness, Supreme Justice Michael Cheshin obnoxiously pulled the broadcast plug on the Prime Minister of Israel.
Which leaves Natan Sharansky as just about the only real “centrist” running in this election. He is untainted by corruption or scandal; is appropriately yet responsibly hawkish; fearless of confrontation, if necessary, with European and other well-meaning Westerners who wish our surrender in the establishment of a Palestinian terrorist state; firm and consistent in his demand for Arab democratization as a necessary condition for peace; respected in Washington; truly centrist on matters of religion and state; and refreshingly unpretentious.
Sharansky has all the makings of national leader. To me, the halcyon, cogent choice – and not just for Russians or other immigrants – is Yisrael B’Aliyah.