TEL AVIV—Now that the Israeli elections have passed I wonder if anything ever happened at all. The political debate that tore families apart six years ago now sounds like the desert wind – a silent hush in a big vacuum.
On the night before the March 28 elections, I was sure people from all parties would be on the streets fighting for room to place their campaign posters. Yet, two friends and I were the only ones on the street. No young kids, no angry men stopping their cars and yelling at us. I knew there was a general sense of apathy in the air, but I was amazed to see how deep it ran.
These elections were truly a phenomenon. A friend who came for dinner a few weeks ago, said he was voting for Kadima, the party former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon built just a month before he went into a coma.
“Why?” We all asked at once.
He said he was voting for Kadima because it’s Sharon’s party. The man is practically dead! Many people shared this wishful thinking, as if Sharon will continue to lead us after the elections, perhaps miraculously rising from his bed after hearing the results.
On the other hand, the most common reason people gave for not voting Labor Party were purely racist – that party leader Amir Peretz has a mustache and his parent’s came from an Arab country. There are several better reasons not to vote for Labor, namely their persistence in forming coalitions with rightwing governments, approving all their actions, and crying out loud about it at the same time. It appears they are heading that way again after finishing second in the election behind Kadima.
Sharon used silence as a strategy for winning the elections. It worked so well that Ehud Olmert, his successor, refuses to talk about his plan for withdrawing from parts of the West Bank. His declarations remain vague. He is not saying now anything that he hasn’t said before and he refuses to talk with the new Palestinian government led by Hamas. It makes me wonder if there is another reason not to talk with them; that whatever he has in mind could not be accepted by the Palestinians.
Olmert’s plan is not likely to include stopping the separation wall, still cutting through villages and denying human rights by heavily restricting passage. It leaves the territories without any local infrastructure, making them dependent on third-world style sweatshops and work permits from Israel. Most of the water supply is controlled by Israel. Palestinians have no control over their air space, sea ports and borders.
Another aspect of the plan is “land exchange,” a euphemism for giving the Palestinians land in the center of Israel that is mostly occupied by Arabs in return for big settlement blocs in the most fertile parts of the West Bank. As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy recently wrote, “an absolute majority of MKs in the next Knesset do not believe in peace, nor do they even want it – just like their voters – and worse than that, don’t regard Palestinians as equal human beings. Racism has never had so many open supporters.”