By Martin Sherman
The list of the Left’s blunders is depressingly lengthy. It has been hopelessly wrong about... well, everything.
This is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender. – Abba Eban on the Six Day War
The preceding citation, from arguably Israel’s most consummate diplomat, encapsulates the glaring irrationality and the inverted logic that has become the accepted hallmark of the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, both at the level of theoretical analysis and of practical policy-making.
The abandonment of any coherent, reasonable criteria has not been confined to the attitude of the Arabs towards Israel, but sadly has become a characteristic of Israeli policy towards the Arabs – and of a host of domestic issues that impinge directly and indirectly on that policy.
The absurd becomes routine
Consider the situation, which defies rational explanation, that is emerging today before our eyes, without evoking any significant expression of public incredulity — much less outrage — that such an astonishing development should warrant.
The ruling party of the day, the Likud, is, in effect, imploring the Palestinians to enter into negotiations over a resolution of the conflict on the basis of a principle — the Oslo two-state concept — that it itself rejected vehemently only a few years ago.
Mind you, this bizarre situation has not come about because this previously rejected principle has proved to be a stunning success. Quite the contrary, it has been shown to be an abject failure. After all, the endeavor to implement it has precipitated all the dangers its opponents warned of, and none of the benefits its proponents promised. Indeed, it has wrought death and destruction on Jew and Arab alike on a horrific scale.
Failures don’t come more abject or clear than that.
Yet almost inconceivably, just when it became undeniable that the opponents of territorial concessions and political appeasement were completely vindicated, they began to embrace the very policy they had previously repudiated.
These circumstances mirror almost exactly the inexplicable absurdity expressed in the Abba Eban citation above. Instead of the anti- Oslo victors in the ideological-political clash with their pro-Oslo advocates routing their vanquished adversaries, they set about surrendering to them.
Unwarranted intellectual surrender
This faint-hearted and feeble-minded conduct on the part of what is inappropriately dubbed — usually pejoratively — Israel’s political “Right,” constitutes unacceptable, unwarranted and irresponsible intellectual capitulation.
After all, the political doctrine of what is inappropriately dubbed — usually approvingly — Israel’s political “Left,” should have been consigned to utter and enduring disrepute. Every notion to which the Left has attempted to tether its political credo has come adrift. Every policy-relevant concept, every politically relevant personality on which it pinned its hopes has produced nothing but disaster and disappointment.
Indeed, the manifest folly of the Israeli Left and its preposterous brain-child, the Oslowian “peace process,” should have made it an object of enduring public ridicule. The manifest mendacity of its endeavor to promote it should have made it the object of ubiquitous public distrust.
Sadly however, the Israeli Right has done little to produce such an outcome. In fact it has done much to prevent it. For despite the fact the Left has little to justify its perennial claim to either the moral or the intellectual high ground, the Right has shown little stomach to challenge it.
A catalogue of blindness and blunder
This right-wing reticence is difficult to comprehend. After all, the list of the Left’s blunders is depressingly lengthy. It has been hopelessly wrong about... well, everything.
• It was wrong in embracing the homicidal Nobel peace laureate Yasser Arafat as a credible peace partner who could “deliver the goods.”
• It was wrong in pinning its hopes on Mahmoud Abbas, whose tailored suits and coiffured hair served as deceptively comforting contrasts to Arafat's belligerent keffiyeh and military fatigues.
• It was wrong in believing it could reach a lasting accord with the Palestinians by decoupling Fatah from Hamas and dealing only with the former while ignoring the latter — as both the expulsion of Fatah from Gaza and the recent unification moves prove.
• It was were wrong in portraying Salam Fayyad as a pivotal centerpiece for a durable peace accord — since recent developments demonstrated how precarious his position is.
• It was wrong in ignoring how imprudent it is to attempt to pursue an agreement based on a person-specific configuration of the Palestinian leadership which could be swiftly removed from power — by ballot or bullet — by a more inimical and radical successor – as in Gaza.
• It was wrong in heralding Bashar Assad as young Western-oriented, Internet-adept doctor whose accession to power would usher in an era of peace and progress that would allow Israel to relinquish the Golan.
• It was wrong in urging Israel to avail itself of the “good services” of the Islamist government of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an “honest broker” to promote a deal with Damascus.
• It was wrong in insisting that an Israeli withdrawal to the internationally recognized borders would mollify Hezbollah and bring about peace with Lebanon.
• It was wrong in claiming that Israel could not attain economic prosperity without political peace with the Palestinians... as its current prosperity, even in an increasingly unprosperous world, clearly shows.
Yet in spite of this record of massive misjudgment, the leadership of the political Right persists in curiously misplaced deference to its ideological adversaries on the Left.
This deference was painfully evident in the Knesset this week, where issues that impinge on the nation’s ability to act assertively with regard to the Palestinians were raised.
The negative reaction of senior Likud ministers and MKs to the legislative initiatives aimed at addressing the problems of ideological bias in the nation’s judiciary and of foreign funding of inherently anti-Israel NGOs operating under the guise of “human rights,” are a disturbing reflection of the Right’s manifest sense of inferiority generated by the aggressive moralistic posturing of the Left.
While it might be possible to argue that the existing legislative proposals lack a measure of polish and refinement, it cannot be disputed that they raise issues of significance and urgency which must be confronted in the spirit — if not perhaps in the precise detail — set out in these bills.
Protection of the rights of minorities is one thing. Promotion of the ability of minorities to subvert the democratic process is quite another. There is nothing vaguely democratic about facilitating the imposition of minority views on the majority via extra-parliamentary action funded by foreign governments.
There is nothing vaguely undemocratic in a sovereign state instituting measures to limit — or at least monitor — attempts by alien sovereignties to empower fringe elements in the country, with negligible domestic support for their ideas, to subvert the policy of the government elected by universal suffrage.
Indeed, to abstain from doing so would be a dereliction of democratic duty. To advocate such abstention is to pervert, not preserve, democracy.
Judicial legitimacy and independence
The same is true with regard to the initiatives regarding the judiciary. While the independence of judiciary is indeed a matter of vital importance, it will be worth little if the public has no faith in the justice it dispenses. Indeed, the confidence the public has in the courts is no less — perhaps even more – important than their independence. For in the absence of such trust, justice will be sought elsewhere and by other means.
The plummeting degree of confidence the public has in the legal system is a clear warning that the status quo is unsustainable. According to one long-term study by the University of Haifa, barely one-third of the general public has faith in the system. According to Prof. Arye Rattner, who conducted the study, this ongoing 10-year decline in public faith in the courts “constitutes a grave blow to one of the most important foundations of the legal system in a democratic society – legitimacy.”
These words of warning echo precisely those of Prof. Ran Hirschl in his book Towards Juristocracy, which I cited in a recent column, “A real reason for revolution.”
In it Hirschl cautions: “Over the past decade, the public image of the SCI [Supreme Court of Israel] as an... impartial arbiter has been increasingly eroded... the court and its judges are increasingly viewed by a considerable portion of the Israeli public as pushing forward their own political agenda.”
It is thus a shame — or perhaps more precisely, shameful — that senior members of the coalition chose to abandon their parliamentary colleagues and endorsed the unfounded censure of them and their initiatives. A far better and more constructive course would be to join them in addressing any defects in their commendable proposals.
Israel has put its trust in leaders who have led it into great peril — and into those who so far have failed to lead it out of it. It has been placed in great danger by the injudicious action of the Left and the impotent inaction of the Right. The Left has imposed a fatally flawed paradigm on the nation; the Right has failed to formulate a persuasive alternative.
This situation cannot be allowed to continue. There is a potential for great tragedy brewing. Unless this pressing challenge is addressed rapidly and resolutely, all that might remain for future generations to do will be to assign blame for the fulfillment of that tragedy.