Peace did not fail. It’s the man who falsely talked about peace who failed.
Here are the facts:
Only 59.1% of the citizens who had the right to vote did actually vote. Out of these, Ariel Sharon received 62.38% of the valid votes. Meaning: Altogether Sharon received the votes of only 35%, just a little more than a third of the electorate.
He acquired these votes on the basis of his main slogan: “Only Sharon will bring peace”. Meaning: His spin-doctors, reading the public opinion polls, have decided that that’s what the public wants more than anything else.
While the candidacy of Shimon Peres seemed viable, all public opinion polls gave him about 50% of the vote. In the public eye, Peres is identified with the Oslo agreement and the “new Middle East”.
15.4% of the eligible voters did not go to the ballot box at all, in addition to the 25.5% who did not go the last time. The difference consists wholly of the members of the peace camp, both Jewish and Arab. To these there must be added the voters who did go to vote but put a blank ballot into the box, as well as those who (like myself) decided at the last moment, in spite of their opposition to Barak, to vote for him as the lesser evil. Meaning: The hard core of the peace camp, located to the left of Meretz and Peace Now, includes 20% of the public. The politicians have ignored this sector for years, as have the media, who have failed to report its actions. In the future, no candidate of Labor-Meretz will be able to win an election without this bloc.
The simple truth is that it’s not the people who elected Ariel Sharon. It’s Barak who caused him to be elected.
How? During the recent months he repeated over and over again: “I have turned every stone. I have made immense concessions. I went towards the Palestinians further than any former Prime-Minister. But instead of accepting my proposals, the Palestinians have opened fire and are killing Jews. The sly, scheming, corrupt Arafat, whose company I do not enjoy, has broken all agreements. The Palestinian side is not ripe for peace. We have no partner for peace.”
Nearly all the Israeli media have turned themselves into government propaganda organs and have repeated this false argument as a self-evident truth. The public drew the logical conclusion: if there is no partner for peace, let’s vote for Sharon.
How to explain Barak? Easily: his heart is right-wing, his mind is left-wing.
“Right” and “left” are not a matter of opinions, but of character. The rightist character is authoritative, power-hungry, pessimistic, past-oriented. The leftist character is liberal, compromising, optimistic, future-oriented.
Barak is an intelligent person, and understands, therefore, that there is no other way than compromise with the Palestinians. But his rightist character does not allow him to offer a reasonable compromise, and all his bearing é style of speaking, body language, form of behavior é are anti-peace.
This inner conflict, a real cognitive dissonance, explains the apparent zigzag movements that have become his trademark. It explains why this famous general was unable to decide on a long-range strategy on any subject – and stick to it.
* He decided that he needed the orthodox Shas party in order to have a majority for peace. But at the same time, knowing full well that education is the most important preoccupation of Shas, he gave the education ministry to Yossi Sarid, the bete noir of Shas. Some measly millions for the Shas schools and the ridiculous fight over the prerogatives of the Shas deputy minister of education caused Shas to leave the coalition. Exit Shas, exit the grand strategy.
* When he lost Shas, Barak raised the flag of the “civil-secular revolution”. Thus he lost forever the support of all religious and orthodox voters. But since he did not implement a single one of the promised secular steps, such as the calling up of yeshiva (religious seminary) students, Barak did not gain any secular votes either. Exit the secular revolution, exit the secular votes.
* He wanted as broad-based a coalition as possible, but after receiving practically all the votes of the Arab citizens, he treated them from the outset with manifest disdain. He did not appoint an Arab minister, neither did he visit Arab villages and towns. When policemen killed 13 Arab citizens, he did not dismiss the commander, nor did he put any of the policemen on trial, nor did he even apologize. Exit the Arab votes.
* He asked for the cooperation of the Palestinian security services in the prevention of guerilla actions, but at the same time enlarged the settlements at a murderous pace. Every Palestinians saw with his own eyes how his village was being surrounded by settlements, how his land was cut into pieces by by-pass roads, how homes were demolished and trees uprooted. The mounting public anger of the Palestinians encouraged the Jihad, Hamas and eventually Fatah to undertake guerilla actions. Enter settlements, exit security. (All the settlers voted for Sharon).
* He put the peace negotiations on the top of his list of priorities, but entrusted the job to rank amateurs, retired generals, Shabak (secret police) personnel and a lawyer versed mainly in commercial negotiations. None of the teams included anyone who really understands the Palestinian condition and is able to deal with the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Enter the generals, Ben-Ami and advocate Sher, exit the negotiations.
* He decided, quite rightly, that Yassir Arafat is the partner for peace, but from the first moment on treated him as an enemy, humiliating him at every opportunity, speaking about him in the most negative terms. At Camp David he did not meet him in private, even though he was staying 100 meters from his lodgings. Exit understanding with Arafat, exit the partner.
* He told the Israeli public that painful concessions are needed to achieve peace, and at the time boasted repeatedly that he had not given back even one inch of territory. Exit the confidence of the left, without gaining the confidence of the right.
* And most importantly: He decided that the final status agreement with the Palestinians would be the trump card of his government, to be played in the next elections and/or referendum. He did indeed make some verbal concessions, but his “red lines” (“I shall not sign an agreement giving sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the PalestinianséI shall never allow any Palestinian refugees to returné80% of the settlers will remain in settlement blocs that will be annexed to Israelé”) were unacceptable to the Palestinians. He agreed to “give” to the Palestinians a state composed of truncated enclaves, demanding that this be recognized as the “end of the conflict”. Exit the agreement, exit the elections.
In the end, Barak fell between all the stools. He was routed, and the peace with him.
It seems as if we have returned to square one, to the days before Oslo.
Many feel like Sisyphus, the tragic hero of Greek mythology, who was condemned by the gods to roll a heavy stone all the way to the top of a hill from which it always rolled down again.
It s e e m s so, but it is not so.
True, the stone has rolled down again and again. But, in our case, it does not roll all the way to the bottom. It does not roll to the place where it stopped last time. Every time the new effort starts much higher up than the previous time.
Barak can declare a hundred times that “all the understandings are null and void”, perhaps in order to land a job in Sharon’s government, but the ideas that were lodged in the minds of millions of people cannot be abolished by decree.
In the last year and a half, the Israeli public has become used to the idea that the Jerusalem will be divided and that the Eastern part will be returned to the Palestinian people. The debate about the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state is over, and the real discussion about the solution of the refugee problem has begun. The idea of an exchange of territory has taken hold. All these are now the starting-point of the next step.
We are now starting to roll the stone from this point – to the top.