Translation of an article
to be published
in Ma'ariv on December 27, 1999
YES! BRIBE THEM!
by Uri Avnery
Buy with money the 17 Knesset votes of a party that attracts voters with
charms, dybbuk exorcisms, amulets, curses and benedictions? A party without
inner democracy that owns a separate education system, where a new
generation grows up to obscurantism and poverty?
My unqualified answer is: Yes,
most certainly. Give them all the money they ask
for, and more. No arbitrator is needed for that.
After the last elections, I raised my
voice for the inclusion of Shass in the new government. In this I was more
extreme than others. I totally rejected the attitude of the Meretz party,
which was against this move, and had a heated argument with Meretz leader
Ran Cohen on television. After the first session of the new Knesset, I
whispered into the ears of Ehud Barak: "Take Shass!" (This whispering was,
accidentally, shown live on TV.)
My reasoning was rough and simple: One
has to chose between the important and the essential. It is important to
safeguard decent public norms. It is essential to achieve peace.
A child in a sweets shop is unable to
decide. He desires everything, the chocolate and the cookies, the cake and
the ice-cream. The very inability to chose is a sign of childishness.
An adult person is supposed to know
that one can't have everything at the same time, that one has to chose. Not
only between good and bad (that's easy) but between good and better, between
important and more important. Sometimes it seems that in this respect, the
Meretz leadership is still in an adolescent phase.
When the Titanic started sinking, what
was more important - to go on with the ball, to clean the cabins, to take
pictures of the iceberg or to lower the lifeboats? In the present situation
of Israel, what is more important - to create appropriate standards of
public behavior, to check the curriculum of Shass schools or to make sure
that a historical opportunity to make peace with Syria and Palestine will
not be missed?
It is natural for those who oppose
peace and support settlements to cry out against the bribing of Shass - in
spite of the fact that only yesterday it was the right-wing government that
bribed Shass to the hilt. But those who believe that the future of Israel
depends on peace should ask themselves: Can it be done without Shass?
Within the government there is a
majority without the Shass ministers for peace. Perhaps it will be possible
to put together a majority without Shass in the Knesset, even if it will be
a pitiful and lame one. But that won't be the end of it. A general
referendum has been promised. Will it be possible to get a majority there
If none of the obnoxious racist laws
proposed by the settlers and their supporters* will be adopted, a majority
of one vote in the referendum will suffice. But in order to give the
government the moral power to dismantle dozens of settlements , we need a
massive majority. Certainly, the supports of a great part of the
Oriental-Jewish sector is necessary.
There exists a kind of mystic belief
that in any referendum, the people will automatically vote for peace. I
propose not to rely too much on mystic feelings. Already the opponents of
peace mobilize the full force of their fanaticism and dominate most
television, radio and internet broadcasts. A very determined effort is
needed to counter the brainwashing that has been going on for so long
against the return of the Syrian heights to their rightful owners.
When peace arrives, the time will come
for a determined struggle for the separation of state and religion, for a
modern education system and for the cleansing of the political scene. Peace
will enable us to create a state we can be proud of. No such state is
possible without peace. And no peace is possible without Shass.
Many years ago I had a private dinner
with the Austrian chancellor, Bruno Kreisky. That was immediately after the
election victory of Menachem Begin. Issam Sartawi, a senior PLO leader, was
also present, as well as Kreisky's closest friend, the Jewish
multi-millionaire Karl Kahane. I was asked to analyze the situation in
Israel on the eve of the setting up of a new government. I explained that
Begin will have no majority without the four deputies of the orthodox
At this point Kahane burst out: "My
god, can't we buy four rabbis? How much can they cost? One million dollars
each in a Swiss bank account? Isn't the future of Israel worth four million
Well, Shass will cost more than four
millions. A lot more. But it's only money.
The future of Israel is worth all
the money in the world!
* Among others, a law requiring a
majority of 60%, so as to neutralize the votes of Israel's Arab citizens.
the Settlement Special]