Odd, isn't it? Not only is there no way
a Foreign Minister can effect social change, but he also has nothing to give
away - no jobs for his faithful, no fat directorships for the party hacks,
no budgets over or under the counter. Nothing. In the Foreign Ministry there
is nothing but honor. Plenty of honor. A paradise for an honor junkie, like
a wine-cellar for a chronic alcoholic.
Menachem Begin, who took Levy for the
building sites of Beth-Shean, did not give him the Foreign Ministry. That
was for Moshe Dayan. He gave Levy the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and
later the Housing Ministry. It didn't enter his mind to give the Foreign
Ministry to a person who does not speak English, the international
diplomatic language, and who is not particularly versed in the history of
the world's nations. But Prime Ministers Shamir and Netanyahu didn't care.
They intended to conduct foreign policy themselves, leaving the honor to
Ehud Barak followed the same cynical
path. He needed Levy in order to obtain some populist sheen himself and was
ready to give him honor in return. Why not? It's cheap. Barak was
determined, anyhow, to make all foreign and military affairs decisions
himself, including all decisions concerning the "peace process'. So who
cares if foreign statesman visiting Israel are compelled to waste an hour on
a visit to Levy? That's what they get their salaries for.
Now it appears that there is a price
for this. The honor of David Levy may cost a lot.
His outburst in the Knesset - "Blood
for blood! A child for a child!" - has caused consternation and outrage
throughout the world. Even more than his last pronouncement - "We shall put
fire to Libanon" - there was something of Mussolini there.
But Levy was not mindful of recent
history, but rather of the ancient one. In bad Hebrew he repeated the
Biblical commandment: "Then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye,
tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Ex. 21. 24). But the Talmud
has long ago amended this primitive morality and set down the law: "Eye for
eye - reparation payment", meaning monetary compensation. Otherwise we would
have a lot of one-eyed Jews.
If this was only a verbal slip, a
uncontrolled outburst of rage, Levy would have apologized. But he justified
his horrible words, arguing that it served the purpose of deterring the
Hisbullah. Perhaps he is too ignorant to perceive that the very opposite has
happened: His threats have for the first time created a united Arab backing
for the Shiite guerillas. From President Mubarrak to King Abdallah, all Arab
leaders have now endorsed the Hisbullah. Only David Levy could achieve that.
Indeed, he deserves a medal - an Arab one.
But worse than the speech itself was
the reaction of our leadership. Not one single minister demanded to remove
Levy from the Foreign Ministry. Meretz and the Labor doves were satisfied
with weak condemnations. Worse, Ehud Barak gave his full backing to Levy.
Not just an obligatory formal backing by a politician who is in dire need of
every partner, but a justification of both content and style.
Levy is a physical symbol of the
continuity of the Shamir-Netanyahu-Barak governments. Once he belonged to
the radical right-wing Likud trio that tried to prevent Shamir from moving
towards peace. Before that he was considered a moderate, because on the eve
of the Sabra-Shatila massacre he warned his colleagues not to send the
Phalangists into the Palestinian camps. Contrary to Begin, he understood
that after the killing of Bashir Jumail, the Christians would massacre the
Palestinian refugees. An eye for an eye.
But that is not the expertise one
demands from a Foreign Minister. Leaving him in office will shame Israel in
the eyes of the Arab countries and the world at large. And in our own eyes,
the Settlement Special]