amona climbing 298 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
When Ehud Olmert summarily rejected all notions of compromise and insisted on the cavalry charge up Amona Hill, he intuitively, if unknowingly, emulated good old Teddy Roosevelt's grandstanding at Cuba's then equally obscure San Juan Hill. Without "Rough Rider" glory, Teddy would have never become president.
Sporting a dashing sombrero and blue polka-dot neckerchief, Teddy dubbed the 1898 assault "a splendid little war," which for him it undoubtedly was. "The charge itself was great fun," he boasted, "oh, but we had a bully fight!"
It undeniably became the pivotal point in Teddy's political career, propelling him to the governorship of New York and thence to the vice-presidential slot on McKinley's second successful ticket. When McKinley was subsequently assassinated, the hero of San Juan Hill was catapulted to the highest executive office in the land.
The sequence of events was somewhat different in Ehud's case. His sleazy rise to power from the Likud's 34th slot makes Teddy look as guileless as his namesake cuddly stuffed bear. No voter in 2003 ever considered Olmert prime-ministerial material and Olmert thought nothing of betraying the very platform on which he barely made it to the Knesset at all.
Nevertheless, Olmert too was in his own circumstances catapulted to the highest executive office after his predecessor's involuntary exit from the arena. For Ehud too Rough Rider credentials could prove lucrative. A tough-guy badge could clinch his predicted landslide.
However, earning the unflinching-upholder-of-the-law reputation would be too troublesome were he, for instance, to tackle rampant illegal construction of tens of thousands of structures in the Arab sector on either side of the Green Line and implement demolition orders there. Settlers, already delegitimized and defeated in Gush Katif, offer softer targets that can be pummeled with impunity yet again. The showdown with them isn't the means to an end but the end itself. Amona's club-swinging, skull-bashing horseback bravura was indispensable.
ONE MIGHT assume that such machinations would never pass the test of public opinion in a democracy, especially in the era of electronic mass media. But our press - rivaling the jingoistic yellow publications that boosted Teddy - isn't a critical chronicler so much as an agenda-resonator. Its leading lights spent decades performing as cheerleaders in a well-orchestrated act, always rooting for the same team, regardless of logo switches.
Our fearless "investigative" reporters applauded Oslo without scrutinizing its premise and destination. They turned blind eyes to the causal connection between Oslo and its ensuing bloodbath. They joined forces to smear Binyamin Netanyahu and bring him down. They avidly approved of corrupt leaders who deceived their voters. They promoted disengagement with unquestioning knee-jerk glee. They studiously ignore the dangers inflicted on all Israelis within Kassam range. Hardly forces that can be relied upon to expose misuse of power, they frequently function as an aggregate of lackey-accomplices, denying average Israelis fair opportunities to weigh non-establishment views.
This isn't to say, though, that there's no freedom of expression for dissident voices in our bailiwick. It just depends which voices. The more Zionist their message, the less it's tolerated. The more it's militantly and stridently anti-Zionist, the more likely is Israel's ultra-liberal high-mindedness to automatically kick in.
ON THE very day that Olmert's mounties charged up Amona Hill, our Supreme Court, which lately never fails to rule against any Jewish national cause, once again demonstrated its unfailing consistency in favoring any nationalist Arab plaintiff. While galloping hoofs were thrust into young faces, Israel's highest court upheld MK Azmi Bishara's parliamentary immunity and ordered all charges against him dropped forthwith.
In 2000 Bishara eulogized Hafez Assad at the Syrian president's Damascus funeral, alongside Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah. After profuse praise for Hizbullah, the Arab member of the Jewish state's parliament egged on "the struggle against Israel." Even our lackadaisical law enforcers reckoned this constituted support for mortal enemies. The Supreme Court, nonetheless, decreed otherwise.
Previously Bishara was let off the prosecution's hook for organizing illegal trips to Syria for Israeli Arabs. In 2003 the High Court overturned a Central Elections Committee decision to disqualify Bishara from running for the 16th Knesset because of his espousal of terrorism.
Emboldened, Bishara misses no chance to exploit the citizenship and democracy of the beleaguered state he detests to further undermine its survival prospects. Last December he traveled to Lebanon, still enemy territory (again without permission), and there exhorted all Arab governments to keep the embers of their conflict with Israel forever burning. He told Israelis he didn't want their democracy and called their state "the product of modern history's greatest daylight robbery." Its citizenship, he asserted, was unwanted by Israel's Arabs and was forcibly foisted upon them. "I'll never recognize Zionism even if all Arabs do," he railed, "we Arabs aren't interested in Israel's democracy. Give us Palestine and take your democracy with you."
Yet Bishara - who clearly considers himself the implacable foe of the state which suffers his tongue-lashings, finances him and allows his junkets to hostile venues - enjoys the succor of Jerusalem's judges, whereas loyal Israelis are as sure to be penalized for their altruism.
Pillorying them can be rendered popular. Supercilious journalistic and judicial cliques brandish their bayonets with relish against those they demonize. They rally enthusiastically behind whoever usefully spearheads "the bully fight." That's why the hero of Amona Hill, in his quest to rake in votes by posturing as Israel's resolute champion of law and order, is backed by both fashionable sentiment and legal sanction. Every "splendid little war" helps.