A road paved on reality
Listening to the news in Israel these days, it is hard to escape the feeling that the Israeli political discourse has become dangerously irrelevant.
Take Iran for example. On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the heads of UN member states, "The dignity, integrity and rights of the European and American people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner."
Ahmadinejad then promised that Israel will soon be destroyed - for the benefit of humanity.
For these remarks, he received enthusiastic applause from the world leaders gathered at the UN General Assembly.
And how has Israel responded? It hasn't done anything in particular. And it has no intention of doing anything in particular.
This point was made clear to the public on Wednesday when Israel's new UN ambassador, Gavriela Shalev, gave an interview to Army Radio. While bemoaning Ahmadinejad's warm reception, she said that the world leaders were probably just being diplomatic. She noted that many of their ambassadors say nice things about Israel to her in private.
Israel's woman at the UN devoted most of her interview to defending the UN. In fact, she said she believes it is her duty not simply to defend Israel to the world body, but to defend the UN to Israelis. As she put it, her job is "correcting the UN's image in the eyes of the people of Israel."
Shalev's appointment to the UN was the work of Foreign Minister - and would-be prime minister - Tzipi Livni. And her view of her role as Israel's ambassador is strictly in keeping with what Livni perceives as the job of Israel's top diplomats. They are the world's emissaries to Israel.
Livni has spent the better part of the past three years at the Foreign Ministry telling us that the UN is our friend, the Europeans are our friends and that the Americans and Europeans and the UN will take care of Iran for us. The Palestinians are also our friends.
As anti-Semitic forces grow throughout the world, Livni has not communicated one single policy for defending Israel abroad that doesn't involve the kindness of strangers. Her response to Ahmadinejad's speech was a case in point.
The one thing the woman who believes that she has the right to lead the country without being elected by anyone thinks that Israel should do in response to Ahmadinejad's call for our physical destruction is to object to Iran's bid to join the UN Security Council. Livni's only concrete response to Ahmadinejad's promise to annihilate us was to issue a directive to Israel's embassies telling our diplomats to ask their host governments not to support Iran's bid for Security Council membership.
Livni doesn't actually think Iran is Israel's greatest challenge. The Palestinians are. And as far as she is concerned, giving the Palestinians a state by handing over Judea and Samaria (and Jerusalem, although she never says it outright), as quickly as possible is Israel's most urgent task. We need a two-state solution and we need it NOW, she says.
Neither Livni nor her colleagues in Kadima, Labor and Meretz, nor her supporters in the Israeli media ever bother to acknowledge the troublesome, inconvenient fact that the Palestinians don't want a state. They want to destroy our state.
This basic fact was made clear - yet again - on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Livni took time out of her busy schedule of political meetings with Labor, Shas and Meretz leaders with whom she is attempting to build a government without being elected by anyone, to meet with Fatah's chief negotiator Ahmed Qurei. Although Livni refused to tell us what she talked about, she promised that progress was made toward the urgent imperative of forming a Palestinian state.
But Qurei was not so enthusiastic. In fact, he was contemptuous of Livni and of the very notion of peaceful coexistence between the Palestinians and Israel. After the negotiating session, Qurei told Reuters that if the talks toward an Israeli surrender of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem collapse, the Palestinians will renew their terror war against Israel. In his words, "If the talks reached a dead end, what do we do? Capitulate? Resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right."
Just to make sure he understood Qurei properly, the reporter asked whether that meant that the Palestinians would renew their suicide bombing campaign against Israelis. Qurei responded, "All forms of resistance."
We have been here, of course, a million times before. This is the same threat that Yassir Arafat and his men have made - and implemented - repeatedly since signing the Oslo Accords with Israel 15 years ago. They use terror and negotiations in tandem to squeeze Israel into giving away more and more of its land. And it works.
When Livni heard about Qurei's remarks, she called him and reportedly told him that they were unacceptable. So he said he was taken out of context. No skin off his back.
He knew Livni wouldn't do anything. At the same time that Livni said his remarks were unacceptable, she pledged to continue negotiating Israel's surrender of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem with him for as long as she remains in power.
Today, Livni and her colleagues in Kadima, Labor, Meretz and Shas are working fervently toward forming a new government that will continue holding irrelevant but dangerous negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians, and pretending that Iran's nuclear weapons are not going to be used against Israel. They argue that we need the "political stability" that they can provide us in this dangerous time.
The Israeli media gives these fantasies their full support. Indeed, anyone who notices that the world is sitting back and allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons or points out that the Palestinians don't want a state is immediately shot down as an alarmist and an extremist.
This national discourse - which has been the only one permitted in the country since the advent of the "peace process" with the PLO 15 years ago - is Israel's Achilles' heel. Until the general public is set clear on the reality of the world confronting the country, there is no chance that Israel will take the necessary steps to defend itself and ensure that it survives.
Understanding this basic fact, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe "Bogie" Ya'alon has taken it upon himself to tell the Israeli public the truth about the world we live in. Ya'alon is a rare bird among Israel's current pantheon of luminaries. He is an honest man who lives by his principles, and he doesn't bend them, ever.
Last week Ya'alon published a book called The Longer Shorter Road in Hebrew. Ya'alon, whose tour of duty as Chief of Staff was unceremoniously cut short by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in June 2005 due to his trenchant opposition to Sharon's planned withdrawal of IDF forces and Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip, has written a book that sets out the facts of life clearly, credibly and passionately.
The book's title is derived from a speech that Ya'alon's commander, Yoram Ya'ir, gave to his officers during the First Lebanon War. Ya'ir explained that short-cuts are not necessarily better than long roads. In fact, it is often better to take the longest route. As Ya'ir put it, "There is a long road that is short and there are short roads that are long."
Ya'alon uses Ya'ir's point to demonstrate that the Israeli Left's insistence on peace "now" and a solution to the Arab-Israel conflict "now" has placed Israel on a strategic trajectory that has brought it, and will continue to bring it only bloodshed and danger. Israel's enemies in the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria and Iran view Israel's insistence on finding immediate solutions to the threats it faces as a sign that Israeli society is collapsing.
As a consequence, every step that Israel has made toward appeasing its neighbors - from recognizing the PLO and bringing Arafat and his legions into Judea, Samaria and Gaza; to retreating from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005; to failing to properly prosecute the Second Lebanon War in 2006; to doing nothing to combat Hamas's regime in Gaza since 2007; to embracing the false paradigm of peace at Annapolis last November - has strengthened their conviction that Israel can and will be destroyed.
Ya'alon also dwells on the moral collapse of Israel's political and media elite and that collapse's adverse impact on the senior command echelons of the IDF. The abandonment of Zionist values and public and private integrity by our politicians and media has cast and kept Israel on a path of self-delusion, where the only thing that matters is immediate gratification. Politicians promise the public "hope" based on illusions of peace-around-the-corner to win their votes. The media support the politicians' lies both because of the media's post-Zionist ideological uniformity and due to their refusal to acknowledge that their populist demands for peace "now" have brought Israel only war and danger.
Ya'alon's book is part memoir and part polemic. He reminds Israelis of what it is about us that makes us a great people, worthy of our land and privileged to defend it. At the same time, he chastises our failed leaders who have tricked the public into following a strategic path that endangers us. His book's greatest contribution is not in providing a set path forward, but in courageously and unrelentingly explaining the reality that surrounds us today and in showing the public how it is that we have arrived in our current predicament.
In exposing himself, his values and his beliefs to the public, and juxtaposing his own leadership experience and personal integrity with the corruption and weakness of our political and intellectual leaders, Ya'alon is telling the public in a very clear way that there is an alternative to defeatism and self-delusion, and that he - and we the public - represent that alternative, that "longer shorter road."
Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and their colleagues on the Left in the Knesset and the media insist that we not take that longer road to security and peace. In fact, they deny that it even exists. They attempt to convince us that elections are unnecessary by arguing that there is no difference between political parties today, because their short cut to defeat is the only path available to us.
It must be fervently hoped that Ya'alon will soon enter the political fray. Like the Likud under Binyamin Netanyahu, Ya'alon is proof positive that Livni and her cronies are lying. There are great differences between those that would lead us and the paths they would take.
And the only road to safety is the long road that is paved on reality.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.