new political system is coming to life in Israel: a "plebiscital
presidency" like the one created by de Gaulle in France of the late 50s.
The president decides and executes. The ministers are his personal
assistants. His decisions are approved by popular referendum. Parliament
becomes a nuisance.
In France this happened because
everybody was fed up with a parliament that was obviously incapable of
satisfying the general demand for an end to the war in Algeria. Power
was transferred to a general who despised politicians. He instituted a
system of government by plebiscite. Parliament became unimportant.
Ehud Barak has not yet proven that
he has the stature of a de Gaulle. After all, the French general had
with one stroke put an end to the occupation, liberated Algerian up to
the last millimeter and sent home a million French settlers, whose
families had lived in Algeria for a hundred years. Has Barak that kind
But as far as domestic politics are
concerned, Barak's situation resembles de Gaulle's. It's not his fault,
really. One can criticize his arrogance, insensitivity to others and
faulty human relations. But that's a secondary problem. The main fault
lies with the Knesset itself: It is simply not capable of governing at a
critical time. Its irresponsibility has reached criminal proportions.
The Knesset has become a ship of
If a future historian will
trouble himself to look at the TV cassette of the Knesset session on the
day of Barak's departure for Camp David, he will not believe his eyes
and ears. At one of the defining moments in the history of Israel, when
the Prime Minister was going abroad to try to put an end to the
120-years long conflict, the Knesset resembled a nest of wasps.
Most members and their factions
were motivated by personal and party interests that shrink into
insignificance compared to the historic decision on the agenda: peace or
war for generations. In other words: They considered this decision
unimportant, not to say negligible, compared to personal insults,
electoral calculations or personal idiosyncracies.
Let's starts with a person who was
not there: Ovadia Josef. For years we were told that he is a
towering spiritual guide. A dozen years ago, Arie Der'I told me
that the rabbi (like himself) was an extreme dove who understands the
Arab world and is capable to make peace. And indeed, the rabbi issued a
religious judgement stating that the halakha (Jewish religious law)
demands the giving up of territory in order to prevent killing. And now
the rabbi reappears as the mainstay of the extreme right, the primary
obstacle to peace.
Why? Has the halakha changed?
Or is the rabbi "great in the Torah" but very small as a politician?
Perhaps, instead of leading, he is being led? Perhaps he is not really
interested in pikuach nefesh (the saving of lives), but rather in the
saving of his party, in the face of the danger that his voters will
return to the Likud?
As for Der'I, what a
disappointment! At the crucial moment he is unable to transcend his
personal troubles with the law. He is ready to sacrifice the fate of the
state on the altar of his personal revenge, while rolling his eyes to
His successor, Eli Yishai,
is incomprehensible, not only because he slurs his words but also
because they don't make sense.
True, Barak has made many mistake
in his treatment of Shass. He was disdainful, overbearing and remote.
But faced with such a historic decision, should this have mattered?
Because of Shass, the Prime
Minister had to embark on his journey to the summit after a majority
vote in the Knesset against him, a truly shameful situation. And, how
strange, the blame for that falls jointly on rabbi Ovadia Josef and
Lapid's pretext for abstaining is
his demand for the draft of religious youngsters. In other words, the
service of the Yeshiva-students in the next war is more important to him
than the prevention of the war itself. Those who maintain that Lapid is
basically a right-wing person may be right; perhaps, just like Der'i, he
will sabotage peace at every moment of truth.
The behavior of Asmi Bishara,
who abstained and later tried unsuccessfully to change his vote, was, to
say the least, odd.
Even worse was the behavior of
Itzik Mordechai, who did trouble to cast his vote at all, but
neither resigned his seat. His sex-life now determines the fate of the
state. This, truly, is the epitome of irresponsibility.
Still worse is the behavior of
David Levy, this pompous zero, an eternally insulted nobody. He
ostensibly voted for Barak, and on the morrow stuck a knife in his back.
He resembles the knight on the chessboard, hopping around all over the
place, looking for a safe place on somebody's election list. An inflated
ego hovering above everything, above peace, above war, above graveyards.
But all these are nothing compared
to Sharansky, the real enigma of the Knesset and the whole state.
Anatoliy Schcharansky, the
international hero, the indomitable fighter for human rights, the man
who dared to pit himself alone against the huge terror-machine of the
KGB. On the morrow of his arriving in Israel we saw a completely
different person. Anatoliy became Nathan, and it looked as if he had
changed his personality together with his name. The giant has turned
into a dwarf, an ordinary party-hack, indifferent to human rights, a
chauvinist vis-a-vis the Palestinians, a racist at the head of the
interior ministry. As if he had put on the clothes of his Soviet
There may be a solution of the
riddle: In the Gulag, the original Anatoliy Shcharansky was murdered
and, in order to cover the crime, the Soviets have taken some fellow
from the market who resembles him physically and sent him to Israel.
This is now our Sharansky. The caricature of a fighter.
Some believe that his shameful
behavior stems from the fear that his voters will desert him for the
crowd of Avigdor Liberman, an undisguised ultra-rightist. If so,
this is another case of a leader running after his followers instead of
More than enough has been said
about the bottomless Chutzpah of the four Ashkenazi orthodox members,
who demand to free their followers from military service but do not vote
for peace. They are ready to send us to the inevitable war.
All these characters took part in
the absurd play in the Knesset. The harm done is irreversible. The
respect of the public for the Knesst, which was nearing zero even
before, has fallen into a abyss.
If the peace negotiations with the
Palestinians explode, the ship of fools can sail on, because in the
following bloodshed nobody will remember them. But if Barak will return
from the summit with an agreement, the fate of parliamentary democracy
will be bound up with the fate of peace. If the Knesset will interpose
itself between the people and peace, it will commit suicide. The public
will demand to change the system from the bottom up.
Remember de Gaulle.
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