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It is the year 2000. An Israeli comes upon a contraption that is a cross between a time capsule and a time machine and peers inside, coming to events in the year... 2006.
Let's call our explorer "Mr. Israeli 2000" and his guide and commentator "Mr. Israeli 2006."
Glancing at the screen, the year 2006 comes into view. Portrayed there is an emancipated Gaza Strip - one free of Jewish settlements.
Mr. Israeli 2000 perceives that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has removed the settlements from the Gaza Strip without engaging the Palestinians.
"Have you gone mad?" he exclaims to Mr. Israeli 2006. "Your soothsayer is obviously fabricating."
"No, no, it's correct; keep looking," Mr. Israeli 2006 responds.
Mr. Israeli 2000 continues to investigate - and explodes into laughter.
"You won't believe what I just saw," he turns excitedly to Mr. Israeli 2006. "Shimon Peres and Tzahi Hanegbi are in the same partyâ€¦ and, if I'm not mistaken, the party is called Kadima and was established by Arik Sharon. Your device has a great sense of humor!"
Despite his bewilderment, Mr. Israeli 2000 persists in curiously perusing the future.
"I don't believe it," he says. "I'm looking at an evening in January. Israelis are hanging on the news, waiting with their fingers crossed for Fatah - with the life-imprisoned, terrorist and murderer Marwan Barghouti at its helm - to win the Palestinian parliamentary elections."
"Complete craziness," Mr. Israeli 2000 murmurs in disbelief. "Who wins? Hamas!"
He turns to Mr. Israeli 2006. "I never trusted the Palestinians, but I never believed that the people would vote in Hamas in a democratic election. That is, without a doubt, an extreme and uncalled-for turn of events."
Mr. Israeli 2000 continues gazing into the future, deciphering Israeli public reactions to these surprising results. Among other things he comes upon Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressing the desire for a two-state solution for two nations. "Unbelievable" he smiles.
"Continue observing," urges Mr. Israel 2006, "it's not all that amusing."
THE TIME capsule exposes Mr. Israeli 2000 to the 2006 report on poverty; 750,000 children are living under the poverty line, suffering from hunger. "This monitor seems to be focusing on Africa rather than Israel," he observes.
Mr. Israeli 2000 remains staring into the screen as he reviews the March 2006 election polls.
"Look!" he exclaims in astonishment. "The Kadima Party with Ehud Olmert at its helm is projected to receive nearly 40 seats, Labor with Amir Peretz as its leader looks as if it may get less than 20 seats, and behind both of them is the Likud, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, with around 15 seats in parliament. That's it. That is all the proof needed to show that you people from the future have really gone mad."
"No, my friend, not at all," says Mr. Israeli 2006 as he beckons the other to gaze further beyond... to 2007.
"As you can see, the spectacle there is simultaneously surprising and confusing."
One hand points to global terror led by a coalition of Hamas, al-Qaida, and pro-Iranian forces; the other hand indicates a contradictory scenario - Hamas tempers its stance, recognizes Israel's right to exist and begins permanent status negotiations.
Scrolling through time, the next scene represents Israel's growing despondence over negotiations, its unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria rooted in strategic and demographic factors, and its consolidation of settlement blocs based on American support in terms of an Israeli-American agreement.
"Unbelievable..." murmurs Mr. Israeli 2000. "I'm quite dizzy," he admits in embarrassment.
"I feel the same way," responds Mr. Israeli 2006, still preoccupied with the future.
"Look! In the year 2007, Israel qualifies for the World Cup 2010."
"Now you're really pulling my leg," chuckles Mr. Israeli 2000.
THE MORAL of the story is that the expected does not occur; indeed, surprises are the norm. This assumption underlies the nature of our country, and of our region. To achieve the desired political outcome, Israel requires a leadership that can cope with the unexpected, and it should:
â€¢ be aware of what we want with respect to all aspects of life;
â€¢ initiate, and not simply react;
â€¢ exercise leadership and judgment based on real experience.
Translated from the writer's recently published book, Mr. Israeli in the 2006 election. (Available in Hebrew)