Thank you kindly, President Assad

In politics, what is said doesn’t matter while who said it does. The internal political battlefield in Israel is so fraught with irreconcilable axioms such as this that sometimes an external factor is needed to reunite disparate parties.

assad speech 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
assad speech 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A deep rift between the Left and Right is tearing Israeli society apart. Over the last 2 weeks, many national newspapers have published critical reviews of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, including his meeting with Obama, his speech at AIPAC, and of course his address to the joint session of Congress. 
RELATED:Could Assad vent his wrath on Israel?
I found myself thinking that maybe those reporters were right in their assessments: Perhaps Netanyahu did make the wrong speech; perhaps he should have offered other conditions for peace. Therefore, I decided to go to the other side and delve into the many peace plans proposed by “the good guys” of the Left.
Two such plans were recently hailed by the same reporters that shot poisonous arrows at Netanyahu: the first is “the generals’ plan,” endorsed by General Amnon Lipkin Shachak, former commander in chief of the IDF, General Danny Yatom, former Head of the Mossad, Mr. Yaakov Peri, former Head of the Shin Bet, among others. The other plan was offered by General Amram Mitzna, who is currently running for chairmanship of the Labor party.
So what did they offer that got the left wing so excited? Well, here are the plans’ main themes: A two state solution; the recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people; no return of Palestinian refugees to Israel; swapping territories with the Palestinians; demilitarization of a Palestinian state. One of the plans also included IDF presence along the Jordan river.
Excellent plans, the Netanyahu critics proclaimed. But I was rather perplexed when I compared them with Netanyahu’s speeches. I simply couldn’t find any major differences between “the good guy” plans and Bibi’s. Notwithstanding that while the good guys offered to divide Jerusalem, Netanyahu wanted it to remain unified and Israeli – yet even so, the PM hastened to add that with some creativity and good will a solution can be found.
Overall, then, why were Mitzna’s and Shachak’s plans hailed as good while Netanyahu’s is bad? And another thing: Do Mitzna and Shachak and tutti quanti know of a single Palestinian who would accept their plan? No return of refugees, no return to 1967, recognition of Israel as the State of the Jews, demilitarization - aren’t those the very issues which the Palestinians are continuing to reject? What can possibly be considered good about plans which are doomed from the start?
Last week, Ari Shavit of Haaretz added yet another plan to the ever-growing list: Israel’s recognition of a Palestinian state with provisional borders - with the rest of the problems to be solved at a later date. Great plan indeed. Perhaps Shavit had momentarily forgotten that during his tenure as prime minister, Ariel Sharon toyed with this very idea yet once again the Palestinians reacted with a resounding “No!”
Through this exercise, I learned my lesson: In political life, what is said doesn’t matter, it only matters who said it. Mitzna and Shachak and Yatom can offer us and the Palestinians the most naïve and childish plan of all –and they would be cheered nonetheless. Netanyahu can offer the exact same plan only to face criticism and ridicule.
I still remember opposition leader Tzipi Livni’s refusal to join Netanyahu’s cabinet after the last elections on the basis that the PM “doesn’t accept the two state solution.” Yet in his Bar Ilan speech, the PM clearly endorsed this solution. And how did Ms. Livni react? With the immortal words, “Yes, he said it, but he didn’t mean it.” And that was the end of that.
The internal rift in Israeli society greatly disturbs me and it often seems like the situation can never be reconciled. Yet sometimes, as in the tradition of Greek mythologies, a deus ex machina emerges that solves all the tangled and unresolved elements (usually with the killing of everyone involved).
This time, the role of executing a deus ex machina was assumed by the good Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. Fighting for his political life, the kind ophthalmologist from Damascus diverted attention from the massacre of Syrian citizens by sending throngs of Palestinians to our borders and having them wounded or killed by the Israeli army.
But the result he achieved was not what he expected. As Israelis watched the border riots they realized that the protesters did not care about the 1967 borders; they wanted instead to return to the 1947 lines. I recall the image of a young woman marching with a sign that read in English: “I am returning to Haifa.”
We suddenly became aware that beyond all these internal confrontations was an attempt to take our country away from us. Even the extreme wings of our media didn’t dare criticize the government or the IDF for what they did to stop the incursions. So on this occasion – and alas, for a short time only – we were all united. To quote the Reverend Jesse James in one of his best speeches: “We perhaps came here in different ships – but we all are in the same boat.”
So I thank you, President al-Assad, for fostering national unity in Israel.
The writer is a former Labor Party MK and the official biographer of David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres.