A tale of two realities
"Reality," John Lennon once quipped, "leaves a lot to the imagination." But he spoke truer than he knew.
Over the last seven days, two distinct dramas have unfolded, each containing, for a separate segment of the public, its own version of reality. On Saturday, at Gilad Farm, near Nablus, settlers and security forces faced off in a dispute over a handful of huts, which the government terms an illegal outpost and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer claimed, "endangered the state." When it was all over, the security forces won, at a cost of 25 policemen, 17 soldiers, and 19 settlers injured.
Two days later, at Karkur junction, two Palestinian suicide bombers rammed a car full of explosives into a bus, killing 14 and wounding 65. Here was another reality: the reality of terror, of the Palestinian war against us, of our fight for survival.
Taken together, the two incidents tell us something interesting about the strange universe we have inhabited since the Oslo process began nine years ago. On the one hand, we have inhabited the reality of the Left, in which the essential conflict was Israeli vs. Israeli in a struggle for Zion's soul. On the other hand, we have inhabited the reality of the Right, where the battle was Israeli vs. Palestinian in the struggle for Zion's existence.
The story of Gilad Farm is the story of the Left.
It is generally believed that Oslo was about making peace with the Palestinians by cutting a deal with the PLO. Yet for those who supported it, Oslo really had very little to do with the Palestinians. Oslo was a quest by the Left to win the struggle for the country's soul by showing the rest of their countrymen that their messiah Peace Now was the true and only savior.
Oslo began to go awry in April 1994, when the Palestinians introduced the suicide bomber to civilians for the first time. Undeterred, the messianic Left found an excuse for this steep rise in violence. That excuse was the Right and, specifically, the settlers.
In two significant ways, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres contributed actively to this attempt to blame the settlers for everything wrong that happened after Oslo. First, both sought to play down the significance of Palestinian terror that escalated exponentially after the Oslo process began.
Peres coined the Orwellian phrase "victims of peace" to describe terror victims. In so defining the victims, Peres was able to ignore the strategic implications of the fact that by the time Rabin was assassinated, two years into the process, 183 people had already been killed by Palestinian terrorism.
Equally important was both men's use of the term "enemies of peace." These "enemies" were defined as the internal opposition to the Oslo process on both the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. Thus, democratic opposition to a policy that aside from the period immediately after Rabin's assassination never enjoyed a clear majority of support among Israeli voters, was blithely equated with Palestinian terrorists who were murdering civilians.
Peres, Rabin, and their followers could only equate the Right with Hamas by maintaining complete indifference to the Palestinians. To compare those who rejected their messiah to terrorists demanded that Oslo advocates remain completely oblivious to what was happening in the territories turned over to Yasser Arafat.
By ignoring what was happening on the Palestinian side of the Oslo process, and dismissing the importance of suicide bombers, the Left was able to limit the national debate to an irrelevant dispute. This dispute whether peace or the Greater Land of Israel is the messiah had absolutely no value in a situation in which we were handing over territory and arms to an enemy who was using both to build a war machine against us. But framing the debate in this manner was essential to the continuance of Oslo, once it was clear that Arafat was not credible and the Left was evicted from office in 1996.
Fast forward to this past week at Gilad Farm, we see Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer back making open warfare on the same Right and for much the same reason. It is not that Ben-Eliezer, after two years of warfare with the Palestinians, believes that the war is the Right's fault. But he, who next month will face the fourth challenge to his leadership of the Labor Party, knows what his party members want to see. The unreconstructed Oslophiles hold the balance of power in the party.
Those Laborites, whose spiritual guide remains Yossi Beilin, still blame the Right for the failure of Oslo more than they blame the Palestinians. To placate them, Ben-Eliezer needed to orchestrate a violent clash with their true enemy. And this he did on Sunday. As leading Labor dove Shlomo Ben-Ami's decision yesterday to endorse Ben-Eliezer's leadership shows, this ploy was successful.
For the settlers at Gilad Farm, the entire story is one of betrayal. To be sure, they had no business violating the law or confronting an army on whose protection they depend. Yet to the man, they claim that the entire dispute had ended last Wednesday. At the time, security officials reached an agreement with them whereby they would continue to farm the land, but not live at the farm. After that agreement, 2,000 settlers left Gilad Farm peacefully. Immediately after the compromise was reached, Ben-Eliezer denied it existed, and so the scene was set for the violent confrontations.
Because of Ben-Eliezer's renewal of the Left's open warfare with the Right over the outposts, for the past two weeks the entire country has been sent reeling back to the period before Camp David, where the Left felt it could still blame the Right for everything bad that ever happened. For a good five days, it seemed as if the past two years had never happened. At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Peres cursed the rabbis in language he has never used against Palestinian terrorists. Labor MKs from Haim Ramon to Ofir Pines-Paz jumped on the bandwagon of accusing the settlers of incitement to murder, shamelessly conjuring up their libelous attacks against rabbis in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of Rabin's assassination.
Now turn to the other reality, the reality of Karkur junction. On Monday, the Palestinians showed that they too are a side of the Oslo process, and that they care not a whit for the struggle for Israel's soul or how any of us define the messiah.
When the bombers incinerated 14 people on Egged bus No. 841, it was a case of back to the future, where a real enemy is fighting a real war against us.
The attack instantly rendered the entire battle over Gilad Farm passe. People who could think of nothing else on Sunday, suddenly couldn't have cared less on Monday evening, and this was a reasonable response to the carnage.
But we must understand what happened at Gilad Farm. In staging the showdown with the settlers in order to denounce them yet again as the enemies of the good, we learned that after two years of war the Left is willing to continue to ignore reality and that the settlers, to their shame, are willing to play along with them.
In order to win this war, we must recognize what happened over that past nine years. While the Left waged its messianic battles against the Right, it forced us to ignore the real dangers. At Gilad Farm this week, it reenacted this mistake. In the midst of a war for our national survival, the defense minister sent 1,700 soldiers and policemen to evacuate people from Gilad Farm not because they were in danger, but because they were there.
Monday's massacre was proof that this should never have been allowed to happen.
Oslo was an internal debate, and the 283 Israelis murdered between September 1993 and September 2000 were proof we ignore our enemy at our peril. The 641 people whom the Palestinians have murdered since, including the 14 this week, show that anyone not willing to recognize the mistake is not fit for office or a seat at the Cabinet table.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.