A War Cabinet

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“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” asked the prophet Amos (3,3), and perhaps he foresaw the alliance of the two power-hungry generals.

Agreed é since when? I believe that there was an understanding between them right from the beginning of the election campaign, in which they accused each other of leading towards national catastrophe. Two weeks before the elections I was quite sure of it. Invited to the popular TV talk-show “Politica”, I said that these elections will decide whether Mr. Barak will be Prime Minister with Mr. Sharon as Minister of Defense, or whether Mr. Sharon will be Prime Minister with Mr. Barak as the Minister of Defense. The moderator, Dan Margalit, repeated this sentence with some astonishment. (A week later, Barak appeared on the same show. Margalit quoted my remark and asked for his reaction. Barak replied that he does not want to comment on it, but to talk about peace, security and blah-blah-blah.

Barak’s part of the deal is an exercise in power-hungry cynicism and a breach of the voters’ trust. But that is not the main part. Basically, Barak has arrived where he really belongs. He is the right person in the right place: Ehud Barak, Minister of War for Sharon.

He once compared himself to a sailing boat zigzagging in order to reach its destination. The media are absorbed with the zigzags, but they are not important, the destination is. The zigzags included the futile peace talks, which were never serious, the simultaneous hectic building of settlements, the demand for the “end of the conflict” and the beginning of the war. Now he has arrived at a new harbor: the war government.

Sharon’s part of the deal is no less cynical. Two weeks ago he branded Barak and Peres as traitors selling the country to the enemy. Now he buys the routed Barak and the pathetic Peres on the cheap, in order to present the image of a moderate government and gain the trust of the world, while preparing to deliver his big blow at the right time.

Sharon and Barak are no strangers to each other. They have come from the same place, received the same education, pursued the same career and share the same world-view. The “general staff commando unit”, commanded by Barak, was the continuation of the “commando 101” unit commanded by Sharon. When Sharon started his bloody adventure in Lebanon, Barak was in charge of army planning.

This will be a military government. It will be dominated by the three generals: Sharon, Barak and Shaul Mofaz, the most political chief-of-staff in Israel’s history. The government will also include generals Vilnai and Ben-Eliezer. The civilians in the government will be subordinate. They are a pitiful lot anyhow: from the bickering dwarfs of Labor and the Likud up to Shimon Peres, who desperately holds on to office and is ready to lend his Nobel prize certificate to Sharon as a fig leave.

In no Western democracy is there a government in which generals play such a central role. If one is looking for examples, one has to search for them in South America and Africa. “The only democracy in the Middle East” is, in this respect, close to some other Middle Eastern countries.

We are now entering a dark tunnel. The Palestinian war of liberation will intensify, and so will the brutality of the occupation. The vicious cycle of violence and revenge, uprising and oppression will become worse. The difference between the radical-rightist Likud and the moderate-rightist Labor Party will be reduced still further.

Many good human beings, ours and theirs, will pay with their lives. There will be blood, pain, bereavement and invalidity. There will be another price, too: many of our best boys and girls will look for a different kind of life in countries which have a normal civil society. Tens of thousands, who are already there, will just not come back. Religious fanatics, war-happy types and extremist converts will take their place.

Perhaps this is a phase that we must go through. Perhaps, as a people, we are just not yet ready for a normal life. Perhaps we are condemned to remain in the valley of darkness until we are fed up with the path of war and phony “national unity”, and are ready to pay the price of peace.

The government of the generals is a recidivist relapse into a malady, which we believed we had overcome. We are turning our back on the 21st century, a century of civil society, science and hi-tech, and going back to the 20th, the century of murderous ideologies and war.

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” asked the prophet and went on: “Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey?”

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