Eyes Wide Shut

August 22, 2006

In News

By Gideon Levy

The right won. The one clear result of this war is that the left suffered another fatal blow and the rightist camp was strengthened. The prevailing wisdom now is that not only is there nobody to talk to, there is nothing to talk about. Not only did we withdraw from Gaza and get Hamas and Qassams, we withdrew from Lebanon and got Hezbollah and rockets. The conclusion: no more withdrawals. Just before Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman translate this cognitive erosion into electoral achievements, one must ask: Where are they leading and where are we going?

The right has to come up with some answers now. All the despairing leftists and the new and confused enlistees in the right must stop and ask themselves: What exactly is the developing right actually offering? While in Syria, for example, they are thinking about the long term, and its president Bashar Assad has a vision for future generations to make Israel surrender, the Israeli discourse is characterized by total evasion of any long-term thinking. At most, the talk is about tomorrow. There’s a reason for this: the Israeli right has no solutions. For the long term, there are only two real possibilities: transfer, or an end to the occupation. The sane right still rejects transfer, and ending the occupation is not its way. Since there is no other way, the right cannot offer anything beyond the next war. The demand for long-term solutions, therefore, is an urgent one.

The convergence/alignment option no longer has a chance – even the prime minister admits as much. And returning territory as part of an agreement is not acceptable to the right. Annexing the territories is not an option because even the right realizes that means the state becomes binational, which the right does not want. What remains? To wait. For what exactly? For the Palestinians to be a majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River? And then what? The Arab countries equip themselves with more advanced weaponry and ultimately with nuclear bombs? And then what?

The idea that the Palestinians will surrender and the Arabs give in is a twisted idea that doesn’t have a chance. Recent years have already taught us – the hard way – that things are moving in the opposite direction. The Palestinian resolve to be free today of the occupation is much greater than it was 20 years ago; Syria has not conceded the Golan and the Arab states will not stand by idly forever. Islamic extremism is growing in strength, and there is no Israeli consensus about what to do about that except for continuing to arm, which is nothing more than a false formula, as the latest war proved.

Time only increases the dangers faced by Israel, which is walking down the rightist path to an abyss. In effect, it has never really tried any other path. It has never tried to truly end the occupation. The Oslo Accords were never properly implemented, and in any case, were not enough to end the occupation; Ehud Barak offered what he offered, but never actually implemented anything; the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, while continuing to keep it under siege, did not end its occupation. The left’s approach has never been tried, so why despair of it?

Israel has always chosen the right’s approach, through armament, settlement, and hunkering down behind a wall, clinging to the territories and their residents though brutal military force and taking pleasure in the graces of a failed and ephemeral American administration. Nothing endangers Israel’s existence more than this approach. Those who need proof need only look at Lebanon: an army that was accustomed to patrolling casbahs where the population is helpless suddenly found itself in combat with well-equipped and determined fighters. The results lie before us.

Tank crews that were used to barrages of stones and Molotov cocktails were suddenly met with armor-piercing anti-tank missiles. In the next war, which heaven forbid we will face, the much-praised pilots will discover themselves in unfamiliar territory: instead of open, surrendered skies, there will be air forces. The pilots will be as unprepared as the tank crews who were not trained for war. An army that has mostly been devoted to disgraceful policing and foolish assassinations in occupied territories does not know how to fight a real war.

The right has no answer to the demographic, Islamic and technological dangers now hovering over our heads. More stupid management and more smart bombs won’t save us from the anxieties about the rising wave of fundamentalism that intensified in this war.

It is amazing to see how a failed and dangerous approach, which only makes things worse for Israel, wins increasing popularity after a war that proved just how ineffective that approach has become. Instead of the masses taking to the streets demanding real answers, they are hunkering down even more into the old ways. The only protest that comes up deals with the supplies for the reservists or the lack of a strong blow to the enemy. And if there were enough binoculars, water for the fighters, and even a broad ground operation, what exactly would have happened? Would the hatred toward us subside? Would Iran cease its threats? Would the Palestinians give up longing and move to Yemen? We have been trying the right’s way for nearly 60 years. Its results are written in blood and horror. Isn’t this the time, if only once, and terribly belatedly, to try the alternative we never tried?