(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)
Which right-wing extremist do you suppose said the following?
“From here in Beit El to the people of Beit El and to all the citizens of the State of Israel: My party and I have clear red lines. We will remain in Beit El forever.... A united Jerusalem must remain under full and unequivocal Israeli sovereignty.... Under no circumstances will we return to the 1967 lines and there will be no foreign army west of the Jordan River.”
There was more: “I came here to see how the settlements have developed. It is heartening to see that there is so much growth and progress. There are beautiful projects here – the beauty isn’t only in the projects but is connected to the soul, to the soul of Israeli society.”
As The Jerusalem Post
’s then-political correspondent, I was there on May 12, 1998. I heard Beit El residents suggesting – not entirely in jest – that they find a home for their visitor inside the settlement. As predictable, Peace Now excoriated him, issuing a statement that expressed “shock and dismay” at his heresy.
Puzzled? Here’s a further clue. Beit El’s mystery guest was the same one who at the recent Herzliya Conference sternly warned that “lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within historic Eretz Yisrael – and not an Iranian bomb – is the most serious threat to Israel’s future.” In other words, failure to cede to Ramallah’s flimsy make-believe regime whatever it wishes – Beit El included – is a greater threat to Israel than Iranian nukes. No less.
It’s a full volte face versus what our mystery speaker once proclaimed in Beit El. The PA wants an absolute end to the sort of “beautiful development” our mystery man previously gushed over. Considering the deal he belatedly deems indispensable, there’s no way Beit El can stay Israeli.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, the above pro-settler blandishments along with their subsequent precise reversals were both uttered – with equal confidence and seeming conviction – by the same Ehud Barak. He’s ever-adept at making whatever noises suit his purposes at any given juncture. When he strove to win the premiership, it suited him to woo the silent majority which, he accurately diagnosed, was hawkishly inclined.
NOWADAYS HIS chilling chides are also sounded for expedient motives. Our defense minister warns his own government (thereby subliminally accusing it of obstructionism) against the dire consequences of noncompliance with enemy demands.
It’s in Barak’s misguided interest to do so. He is fast losing support in what’s left of his waning party. Instead of pulling it bravely back to the activist political center, where Labor’s greatest strength resided historically, he seeks to mollify his left-wing internal opposition. To hold on to the remainder of its dubious support, he tries to posture as an ultra-dove.
Doubtless that’s why one day later Barak aggressively promoted concessions to Syria too. To avoid the risk of all-out war, cautioned our defense czar, we must surrender. That was the appeaser’s message. The Syrians replied in the fashion expected by all realistic readers of Mideastern tradition. In this region, when you exhibit weakness, you are only kicked down harder. That’s exactly how the Syrians reacted – this time verbally. If their latent threat works, they’ll threaten more.
The real problem, therefore, isn’t Avigdor Lieberman. The foreign minister piped in undiplomatically only after Barak had already provoked Syrian bluster. Lieberman resorted to a style no longer in vogue in contemporary defeatist Israel. Yet it certainly wouldn’t have shocked our founding fathers, who possessed more intestinal fortitude than their political progeny. They, after all, were the ones who created this state against unimaginable odds. Their successors would have never dared.
It’s bon ton to aim barbs at Lieberman. It wins publicity-seekers airtime and paltry PR-points. Nevertheless Lieberman only did the opposite of what potentates like Bashar Assad anticipate from Israel’s shortsighted and egocentric “useful idiots.” Lieberman had the uncommon temerity to threaten right back instead of quaking. This technique works quite well for Vladimir Putin. Israelis might also impart an air of self-assurance for a change. What should worry us isn’t Lieberman’s manner but Barak’s.
Barak (who incidentally managed to attract fewer votes than Lieberman) seems out to prove George Smiley right. John le Carre’s master-spy observed: “The more one has paid for a forgery, the more one defends it in the face of all evidence to the contrary.” Barak has most of his political career invested in forgery. To accept his notion that peace with Syria is doable and vital, we all must not only fork out everything for the forgery Barak hypes, but we must bet our very lives on it.
We must buy into the notion that Syria will obligingly break away from its axis with Iran (something it vehemently reiterates it has no intention of doing). We must further assume that an Israeli-Syrian deal will weaken Hizbullah (regardless of its being Iran’s proxy). There additionally is no basis to trust that Syria will agreeably prevent all gunrunning to Hizbullah.
Similarly pie-in-the-sky is the theory that giving in to Syrian ultimatums will soothe Palestinian passions. Barak’s infamous 2000 retreat from Lebanon only stiffened Palestinian intransigence and spawned the second intifada. Even in the unlikely event that Assad will accommodate us by expelling Hamas and Islamic Jihad headquarters from Damascus, our actual gain will be illusory. Terrorist plots could just as easily be spun from Hizbullah-controlled Beirut or genocidal Khartoum. Big deal.
Our justifiable apprehensions about the strategic risks inherent in Syrians soaking their feet in the Kinneret are downplayed by assurances that the Golan will be demilitarized. Of course we can count on Syria to honor that commitment as much as it did pre-1967 when it shelled northern within-Green-Line “settlements” to its heart’s content (a fact which forced Israel to take the Golan in the first place). Today, moreover, as the Syrian foreign minister so tactfully noted, Syria has the military wherewithal to wreak havoc in Tel Aviv, not just Gadot. Word to the wise.
The fraud-peddlers further cajole us with the promise that peace with Assad will turn the entire Arab/Muslim world lots sweeter toward the embattled Jewish state. Yeah – like the frigid peace with Egypt and Jordan did. A related lure is that the international community will shower us with affection for relinquishing the Golan and uprooting its Jewish residents. Indubitably. Our image is so incontrovertibly improved after our disengagement from Gaza.
Bottom line: Lieberman’s words are cynically blown out of all
proportion to divert attention from the political capital Beit El’s
erstwhile booster has opportunistically staked on assorted political
forgeries. To underpin his shaky speculation, Barak shamelessly opts
for scare tactics.
Does Barak believe his own words? It’s hard to ascertain much, as he’s
now consumed with defending multiple interconnected forgeries “in the
face of all evidence to the contrary.”The writer was
The Jerusalem Post‘s long-time political correspondent (as well as for years of the now-defunct
Davar). She headed the
Post’s Tel Aviv bureau, wrote daily analyses of the political scene as well as in-depth features.