Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Elections soon - but about what?

"Tens of millions of dollars had been spent by the Foreign and Information Ministries, as well as by dozens of other bodies, in the attempt to convince the world that Israel wants peace while the Palestinians refuse it. Now, all this money had gone down the drain, a total loss" lamented the well-known Ben Dror Yemini in his column on the pages of as "Ma'ariv". The one responsible for the loss of these great investments was none other than Yuval Diskin,  former chief of the Shabak Security Service, in his much-quoted speech during the weekend: " The Government of Israel has no intention of making peace with the Palestinians. We have had enough of these  stories in the media about our wanting to negotiate, 'only that Abu Mazen doesn't want it'. This government has no interest in talking to the Palestinians and no interest to getting to a solution with the Palestinians. People in the government know very well that if they were to take the smallest step in this direction, the PM's soundly-based cabinet will be shaken to the core, and his strong government coalition would fall apart. The government has no interest in making any change in the situation vis-a-vis the Palestinians."

Diskin immediately came under a heavy barrage from the government's ministers and speakers, who charged that his comments were due only to personal frustrations and hinted at dark political machinations. But on that same day, the government also approached the Supreme Court, asking to be  released from its legal obligation to remove settlers from five structures built with manifest illegality on private Palestinian land clearly – a removal which should have taken place today. Not only a real peace initiative toward the Palestinians is beyond the ability or desire of the current government of Israel. So is also enforcement of the law on settlers who robbed Palestinian land in broad daylight. Any attempt to carry out such enforcement may already result in the downfall of the government.

And no wonder. The Foreign Minister of Israel is a settler, and another settler  party is a partner in the government coalition, and yet another settler party supports the government from outside. And also in the Likud, the main governing party, settlers and their friends are numerous, and they have established a powerful position in the party structure. Likud Knesset Members who care about their political career should beware of offending the settlers. In short - there would be no point in the Palestinians talking with an Israeli government which would risk collapse if it dares to so much as evacuate five (5) manifestly illegal structures (illegal even according to Israeli law)  in a West Bank settlement.

But still, this does not seem to be the main issue over which we are going to have early general elections this year. What are the elections about? What will the candidates discuss and debate? There is a very hot issue now capturing  the headlines, of which everybody is hurrying to catch hold and dwell upon. Namely: are young Ultra-Orthodox Israelis going to get to the army recruiting offices, or will they go on taking up holy studies in the yeshivas as they did since Israel was founded?

Much noise and commotion, a lot of bills aimed at dragging the Ultra-Orthodox into the army. But even if they do go there, what then? What does the army - with or without  Ultra-Orthodox soldiers in its ranks – do to the Palestinian living under its military occupation for forty-four years? What is its role in establishing settlements and providing the settlers with around the clock guard services? This is no longer a cool issue in Israeli politics today – in fact, politicians tend to actively avoid it.

For example, "Uru!" ("Wake Up!"), one of the many new movements which are emerging and flourishing recently, has the proclaimed intention of waking up and stimulating the Israeli public on a wide range of topics: education, narrowing the gaps between rich and poor, personal safety, changing the system of government and equalizing the burden of military service among different sectors. And the Territories? The Palestinians? The new movement's director general remarked forthrightly that "On diplomatic issues the Israeli society is sharply split". Therefore, the Wake Upers decided to make no attempt to wake up society about this issue.

In short, in the forthcoming election campaign we are likely to see candidates   perform complicated acrobatic contortions in order to avoid any need to utter such dirty words as "occupation", "Palestinians", "settlements" and of course the dirtiest word of all - "peace".  Which is, of course, not the first time. Many times before did the State of Israel attempt to sweep this issue under the rug and just forget about it. Somehow it always manages to reappear and disturb our rest yet again.