Sunday, November 03, 2002

Something Worth Fighting For?

The Labor Party walked out of the government at the end of last week. And I thought: what great news!

I mean, here I am, trying my hardest to demonstrate in this column, in my own small way, how Israel is a normal country, a country like any other, and along comes Labor and they go and prove it as clear as can be. Who could have asked for more?

Labor walks out and shows the world that not everything here is about war and terror and killing. How so? Labor didn’t walk out because of a disagreement over how to treat Arafat. Or over the best method of retaliation after a particularly horrific bus attack.

No, this was about pure old-fashioned values: the distribution of wealth between different sectors. Pensioners and poor farmers on the periphery vs. middle class settlers in the West Bank.

This was a fight that said that some things are still worth fighting for. Yes, the Labor party walked out and allowed us to feel good about democracy again, about our entire political system.

And that’s the way it played out on CNN, on the BBC. “The Labor Party has walked out over an ideological difference of opinion on the amount of funding for settlements.” OK, that still brings us back to the conflict, but not on the level of raw blood and guts. At least not today.

All of this would be reason for rejoicing except for one small thing: the real reason Labor walked? It has nothing to do with values and everything to do with pure politics.

Did Labor really care about the issues? Of course not. It was all a ruse, engineered by jaded politicians to bolster their chances in upcoming internal primaries. The ploy was as cynical as today’s column is turning out to be.

And don’t think the Likud didn’t do their share. This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t perceived as good for the Jews by spin-doctors on both sides.

But the result is that, here we are in the middle of the most grueling war we’ve experienced since the birth of the state - a war of attrition right on our doorsteps, in the centers of our cities - while at the same time we’re sitting on the cusp of another looming conflict, one that could be even more deadly and devastating.

But on TV and on the streets it will be all campaign slogans and patriotic jingles being spewed forth in every which direction as elections draw ever closer.

Here’s an ironic image: a Scud carrying non-conventional weapons is stopped from its intended target when it slams into a campaign billboard at the entrance to Tel Aviv, sticking its chemically-tipped warhead, Pinnochio-like, through the oversized nose of a smiling politician.

Wait a minute: political backroom maneuvering, grandstanding in the halls of parliament, putting the elections and political gain before the public good... that’s not unique to us at all. You know, maybe we are normal after all.

It’s just not the kind of normal that I was hoping for right now.

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