The democrats vs. the non-democrats

The ideological battle in this country is no longer between hawk and dove, and it no longer has anything to do with peace.

Labor Party Woes 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Labor Party Woes 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Labor Party last week faced a painful personal and ideological split. The party that always knew how to host “hawks” and “doves” side by side could not tolerate an ideological supermarket any more. The hawk-dove coexistence that seemed so possible in many parties until now started to become impossible. The peace bluff, so uniting over the last two decades, has been exposed.
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The historic ideological division dominating the 1970s and 1980s is back in town, this time in a different format. The contemporary political map includes many more hawks than doves, but this seems irrelevant now.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak did not really switch ideological camps last week, he just changed his political address. By doing so, he enabled an unprecedented ideological unity among Labor’s leftovers who might be sailing together again.
Before I go further into analyzing Barak’s recent move and its political implications, I have to note that he and I worked together for several years. I was his foreign affairs adviser and he appointed me director-general of the Foreign Ministry. Although theses days the contact is infrequent, we are still personal friends. And certainly I have no reason to complain about the treatment I received from him.
From monitoring Barak’s career closely since he entered the political fray, I would say that it could be divided into two ideological periods. He was never really a “leftist” or a “dove,” but from 1995 to 2000 he could be defined a “tactical hawk,” or at best a “skeptical dove.”
Barak’s innate sense of suspicion (typical of many retired generals) propelled him to thoroughly examine whether an agreement with the Palestinians was possible. The 2000 Camp David peace talks and in particular the ensuing intifada personally affected him. He felt cheated, betrayed and even humiliated. As the master of tactical maneuvering, Barak was out-maneuvered by Yasser Arafat.
Barak’s tactical hawkishness then turned strategic. He stopped believing that peace was possible, and the events during those years further sharpened his already existing suspicions, this time accompanied with a desire for revenge. When he recaptured the chairmanship of the Labor Party, he was a ripe hawk already.
The Labor Party was still somewhat functioning until few months ago, when the US effort to relaunch talks between Israel and the Palestinians totally collapsed. The government renewed its massive settlement policy and any whiff of talks – and of peace – evaporated. At this stage, the status quo became clear: The hawks were creating a reality on the ground that was incompatible with a withdrawal from the West Bank. The doves, who were themselves convinced over the years that “only the hawks can bring peace,” realized that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was no Menachem Begin and that their peace dreams have been shattered.
The hawks-doves battle is essentially over at this stage. Barak’s union with the Likud is the final proof. A new ideological battle has begun and it no longer has anything to do with peace. This time it’s between democratic and non-democratic forces. It is the battle against the possibility of one state with two types of citizens – the Jews with full rights, and the Palestinians with partial rights. On this issue, politicians cannot coexist anymore in the same political nest.
The split in Labor is only the beginning; Likud and Kadima are next. Politicians will now have to position themselves not as hawks or doves, but as democrats versus non-democrats. We will soon see this happening all over the political map. Unfortunately, I do not foresee the democrats gaining the upper hand.
The writer, a former chargé d’affaires in Turkey and ambassador to South Africa, was director-general of the Foreign Ministry between 2000 and 2001. Today he lectures at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.