by Jonathan Rosenblum
December 28, 2006
Why did Joseph interpret the dream of the chamberlain of the bakers to mean that the latter would soon be hanged? In the dream, birds were eating from the baskets on the chamberlain's head, and Joseph knew that birds never draw that close to a living person.
Our prime minister finds himself in a position not unlike that of the chamberlain: someone who is no longer really there. He goes through the motions of being prime minister: He flies hither and yon to be photographed shaking hands with foreign leaders, makes pronouncements and chairs cabinet meetings. He hopes that if he plays at being prime minister long enough, Israelis will get used to the idea.
But just as the charm of a little girl dressed up in her mother's gown, high heels and make-up quickly wears off and the adults lose interest, so the Israeli public has lost interest in our premier. He has become background noise - occasionally irritating, but something you eventually get used to and ignore.
What the public feels now is not even anger - certainly nothing like the Bush-hatred that energizes the American Left. That anger at least assumes that Bush matters. No such assumption prevails here.
Recently, Jerusalem Post columnists were asked to blog on the wisdom of the prime minister's threatening remarks toward Iran. I didn't bother, on the grounds that those remarks were irrelevant since the Iranians, like the rest of us, have long since recognized that there is no bite behind the bark.More articles by Jonathan Rosenblum are accessible at Jewish Media Resources
Does the prime minister contradict himself - announcing last week that there is nothing to talk about with Syria, then favoring talks this week; insisting for months that he will not release Palestinian prisoners until Gilad Shalit is returned, and then reversing course this week?
Very well, then, he contradicts himself.
Not because he is large and contains multitudes (with apologies to Whitman); but because he is so fundamentally unserious that his contradictions are also unserious. Even the multiple investigations for influence-peddling and apartment-swapping fail to elicit more than a yawn.
We would prefer to think as little as possible about our prime minister, in part because we do not want to think too deeply about ourselves. We suspect that he may be retribution for our various sins, and that as a society we have been rewarded with precisely the leaders we deserve. What better proof than that no other prominent politician generates a whit more enthusiasm than the incumbent? The two most frequently mentioned potential successors as prime minister have already failed the test and been humiliatingly ushered out of office before the end of their terms.
BUT THERE is another reason we have tuned out the news. We no longer believe that the various zigs and zags in Israeli policy make a difference. To be sure, the provision of 2,000 rifles to Mahmoud Abbas's militias and the opening of checkpoints will make a large difference to the Jews upon whom, if past experience is any guide, those guns will sooner or later be fired, and to the victims of the drive-by killers and suicide bombers likely to slip past newly opened checkpoints.
But they will not make a whit of difference with respect to the one issue with which we are all obsessed: the possibility of one day living in peace with our Palestinian neighbors. These concessions are being offered without Abbas having taken even the first step toward peace, apart from his willingness to accept Israeli concessions. He has not, for instance, deployed any of the tens of thousands of armed men under his control to stop the firing of missiles at Israel, despite a declared cease-fire.
In a recent lecture, historian Michael Oren described the respective Palestinian and Zionist narratives. He noted that there is not one point of congruence between the two: The Palestinians cannot even acknowledge that the ancestors of today's Jews ever had a connection to this Land.
Nor is there any recognition by the Palestinians that sometimes one has to forget the past in order to build a future, as have 38 million refugees from ethnic strife in the past century, including 600,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands. To insist on the return of every Arab who fled Israel in 1948, and all their descendants, is to insist on permanent warfare until one side wipes out the other.
Asked at the end of his talk where these irreconcilable narratives leave the chances for peace, Oren just shrugged his shoulders. And he acknowledged that the situation is even glummer if one adds the Islamic narrative, according to which all of Israel belongs to the Islamic Wakf, and therefore not one inch of Islamic land can ever be ceded, as a matter of religious duty. With the rise of Hamas, that narrative is increasingly dominant in Palestinian society.
WHAT WE need now is a leader who will level with us about our situation, just as Churchill did when he told the British people: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." No more promises of a fun society for those tired of being brave, tired of winning.
Such a leader would clarify for us, and for the rest of the world, that Israel does not have it within her power to bring about peace with the Palestinians. As long as Palestinian leaders allocate every dollar they receive to buy quiet on the street from the tens of thousands of armed men on their payroll, rather than to dismantling the refugee camps; as long as Palestinian children are raised to believe that killing Jews is their national duty; as long as no Palestinian leader dares act against terrorist groups or disabuse his people of unrealistic dreams - there will be no peace.
But it is not enough to shine the hard light of reality. Israel requires as well a leader who can articulate why it is important that we prevail; and why doing so would be, if not the "finest hour" of a very ancient people, at least one of the finest.
A leader who could do that would once again find Jews in Israel eager to pay attention.