Saturday, March 10, 2007

Revitalising Zionism

Israel under Olmert has stagnated into political apathy. The best thing he could do is go, and let the people decide their future in fresh elections.

Alex Stein (from, in Comment is Free)

The greatest mistake Israel's critics make is to believe that its problems stem from an excess of ideology. Nothing could be further from the truth. The country, which was forged in the irons of Zionism, is now shrouded under the dark cloud of apathy. This phenomenon was already noticeable during the later Oslo years, before giving way to the cohesion that was necessitated by the Second Intifada. Ariel Sharon tried to blow the apathy it away, but was laid low by a coma before he was able to complete the job. And now, under Ehud Olmert, the situation is worse than ever.

How would Israelis vote if elections were called tomorrow? For the last year, the polls have been suggesting triumph for Netanyahu. Faced with this awful prospect, my own answer to this question has always been a tactical vote for Kadima. I had always assumed that a period of inertia is better than rule by the far right. But I'm no longer so sure. Anything but Olmert is now preferable. Anything, whether left or right, that will shake Israel out of its lethargy.

I am a particularly obsessive follower of the Israeli political scene. I read anything I can get my hands on, and like to think I have a reasonable grasp of the plans and motives of the leading players. But, beyond desperately clinging to power, I couldn't tell you what Olmert's current agenda is. Disengagement has long been swatted from the table. The possibility of peace talks with Syria has been repeatedly dismissed out of hand. The idea of finally creating a constitution seems to have vanished; reform of the electoral system is now the exclusive preserve of the Putinesque Avigdor Lieberman. There seems to be no plan.

This week, Yediot Ahranot reported that the weekly cabinet meeting had to be briefly suspended after it almost descended into fisticuffs between Olmert and Peretz. What were they discussing that was so important anyway? Where does Olmert want to take Israel? He once said that he wanted to make her a fun country again, but never elaborated beyond the sloganeering. Where are the ideas? Where is the vision?
Read on...


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