The Tail of the Dog
I am stuck in a huge traffic jam
at the entrance to Jerusalem, and I am furious. Around me I see
hundreds of cars stuck at the only entrance to the "eternal
capital", as they are every day, and as they are at the entrance to
Tel-Aviv and Haifa. My thoughts wander to the dozens of wonderful,
modern, wide, multi-lane by-pass roads that were built all over the
West Bank, including the one from Modi’in to Jerusalem, all of which
are now completely empty.
I think about the railway
that is not there – a scandal of long standing. One train would have
solved the problem, but the railway was not built. There was no
money. Billions were poured into the settlements and the by-pass
roads, and no money was left for the railroad, the means of
mass-transportation operating even in the most backwards countries.
Nobody knows the total sum
that has been invested by the state in the settlements during the
last 33 years. It is impossible to know, because much of it is
hidden in a variety of obscure budget items. Without doubt, many
tens of billions. Perhaps hundreds of billions. The billions that
were needed for the building of a strong infrastructure, for
providing employment, for hospitals, improved schools and
universities. With the money invested in one medium-sized
settlement, several hospitals could be built, so that no granny
would have to lie in a corridor.
Nobody dares to talk about
this openly. The "social" demagogues and the politicians who have
built their careers on the "needy strata" of society – not one of
them dares to spell it out: that the settlements are a tumor that
sucks the blood from the social body. The settlements have pushed
many sectors of our state to the level of the Third World.
An Israeli paradox: It is the
victims of this phenomenon – the unemployed of Ofakim, the sick of
Yerucham, the disabled of Ashkelon – who are the most enthusiastic
admirers of the nationalist regime that furthers the cause of the
But the money taken away from
development and welfare is only a small fraction of the national
expenditure on the settlements. The need to protect the settlements
swallows a huge part of the state’s giant defense budget. At this
moment, the Israeli army is almost completely absorbed by this task,
reservists are taken from the workshops and high-tech enterprises to
guard Netzarim, Kfar-Darom and dozens of other tiny settlements in
the middle of a dense Palestinian population. "Closure", "siege" and
all the other devices for the protection of the settlers are turning
us into a pariah state in the eyes of the world.
This, too, is not the whole
story. The settlements are the main obstacle preventing peace
between us and the Arab world. Because of them, Israeli governments
do not dare to return to the pre-1967 Green Line, even after the
Palestinians have already given up 78% of historic Palestine, which
was conquered by us in 1948. Because of the settlements, no border
can be fixed, making permanent peace impossible. The other problems
– such as the Temple Mount and the refugees – would be solved, if
this central problem were resolved.
In the absence of peace, the
occupation goes on. The Palestinian people rises up against the
occupation, as would any other people. No army in the world is able
to put down such an uprising. For this reason, the senior officers
are looking – consciously or unconsciously – for a confrontation
that they capable of facing: war. Under the auspices of Sharon, we
are sliding slowly but surely into a general war. This week we heard
war threats because of a 10 cm. (4 inch) pipe taking water from the
Hazbani river in Lebanon to near-by villages. In the next war,
chemical and biological missiles will almost certainly be employed.
The civilian population will suffer as never before.
A symbiosis has taken place
between the army chiefs and the settlers. The generals see
themselves as the patrons of the settlements. The military that was
supposed to be a "small, smart army" for the defense of the state is
becoming more and more like a colonial militia for the defense of
the settlements. It has become more and more estranged from large
parts of society. The best and the brightest do not remain in the
army, they go to high-tech and the universities. Their place is
being taken by the fanatical "hesder" yeshivot, a kind of modern
version of the Templar order of the Crusaders.
A simple question: When did
the State of Israel ever consciously decide to sacrifice itself on
this altar? When was this choice ever put clearly before the people?
When has the public, the Knesset or the government ever made the
decision to take this road?
The answer: never. This way
was imposed on the state by a small, fanatic,
messianic-nationalistic sect, which was joined over time by
opportunists, gold-diggers and villas-for-nothing seekers. They have
dragged the state on their way, step by step, and now it’s they who
decide the destiny of the State of Israel.
The tail is wagging the dog.