Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post, Thursday, June 15, 2000 01:13 12 Sivan 5760
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
By Sarah Honig
There comes a time in our life's void,
When praise is called for unalloyed
By carping criticism of indecision,
Of dithering on membership in the coalition.
(June 8) Natan Sharansky's political performance hasn't always risen to the pinnacles of his principled pronouncements. But he more than made up for past irresolution last week when he dispatched a gutsy letter to Ehud Barak. He was thereby instantly transformed into Hans Christian Andersen's generic candid kid who hollers out loud that the emperor is wearing nothing.
Just like him, Sharansky told it like it is. He accused Barak of denuding the Jewish state and divesting it of its strategic assets, leaving it humiliated, bare and unprotected in a world unlikely to turn any gentler or kinder overnight.
Quite the contrary. Barak may exude self-congratulation about the flight from Lebanon, and his generals may tell us that abandoned equipment means diddly, but that's not the view from the Palestinian Authority. Perceptions there matter a whole lot more than he admits. The sight of abandoned tefillin, computers, uniforms and armored vehicles signify to all Arabs one thing and one thing only - an Israeli defeat. Palestinians envy the Hizbullah and would like to count coup too. Emboldened, they talk about emulating its tactics and sending "civilians" to conquer the settlements just as so-called Lebanese civilians overran abandoned IDF and SLA fortifications in the security zone. The sight of a vanquished opponent is no incentive to compromise.
Odds are that Arafat's minions would grow more unyielding if they judge Israel more pliable. But Arafat's subjects are not the only problem. Some of Barak's own voters are getting ideas too. Their morale and expectations were no less boosted. Too little notice was taken of Israeli Arabs who rushed to the border fence to greet inflamed Hizbullah provocateurs. They joined in their frenetic celebrations, replete with "V" signs to signify solidarity in the fight against the common foe - Israel.
But the Israeli establishment reacted with remarkable aplomb to the sight of such ecstatic support for mortal enemies by Israeli citizens who vote in elections, demand a say in referendums that could determine the fate of the Jewish state, and whose representative Barak admitted into the Knesset's sensitive Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. There's little doubt on whose side that representative (MK Hashem Mahameed) is.
Our enlightened higher echelons condescendingly dismissed the Arab spin of what looked like a rout. But could our officialdom's sophisticated supercilious spin be the one that's just a tad distorted? Could it be that like the rogue Imperial Court Weavers who spun splendid invisible cloth for the sucker emperor, our leaders conned the trendsetters among us not to confess an inability to discern the fabulous colors of peace and the florid designs of the prosperity and security which are to envelope us? Not to see what they sell us would prove either that we are incorrigibly stupid or that our military top brass, government bigwigs, pompous politicians, renown journalists, and celebrity broadcasters are unfit for the offices they hold. Failure to fathom the infinite wisdom of our prime minister could ruin reputations. Besides, he is on the politically correct side of the political divide, and so any hint of skepticism is akin to betraying the cause of peace.
This is where Sharansky comes in. What peace? he asked in his letter, maintaining that Barak has already decided to cede as much as 95% of the territories, including the strategically vital Jordan Valley and the shores of the Dead Sea. As many as 50 settlements would be evacuated and as many as 100,000 settlers might become refugees, though the IDF needn't necessarily forcibly evict them, just as it didn't forcibly disband the SLA to please the "international community." It merely abandoned its allies to their grim fate, leaving them to scurry home at the very last minute and rush those family members they found there to safety. The SLA hadn't collapsed: we brought it crashing down.
The same modus operandi may be applied to the settlers. The international community wants them out even more than it wanted the SLA disarmed. As in the Lebanese episode, Barak's personal hands would stay unsullied. The cynical scheme was apparent for all to hear in Minister Haim Ramon's sly semantics. He stressed that "Barak never promised that most settlements would remain under Israeli rule, only that most settlers would." Translation: settlers can choose between deserting surrendered settlements or lingering on under Arafat's benevolent rule of law. They can take their chances, like our SLA comrades could with Nasrallah. It's a free country.
Nevertheless, Sharansky notes, even all these riskiest of sacrifices cannot buy us peace, because pesky problems like Jerusalem would be left unresolved till public opinion is sufficiently softened to surrender chunks of the capital. If Nasrallah can wax so militant over Shaba, imagine how Arafat would rail over the sacred Al Kuds.
Though we will have recklessly gambled with the very survivability of the state, the other side won't be satisfied. Its dissatisfaction will fester as a pretext for ongoing and escalating conflict against the vulnerable, disrobed and dishonored Israel.
Sadly, however, little attention is paid Sharansky's warnings. Instead, the media, in astonishing unison, harps on the identity of Sharansky's sources and on whether his letter reached news desks before being delivered to the prime minister's desk. Andersen's little boy, who told it like it is, got the crowds to drop the pretense. No one bothered to measure the pitch of his voice, check his adenoids, or examine the reliability of his eyesight. What mattered was the truth he forced the fools to confront and admit.
In Sharansky's case, practitioners of advocacy journalism make sure his message won't be amplified. Perhaps it could even be muffled under numerous layers of magnificent non-existent cloth wrapped around to conceal what lies underneath. The trouble is that for Sharansky, and us, far more is at stake than the emperor's personal disgrace.
If you are interested in preserving the security of Israel, please contact the following Israeli political personalities:
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister's Office
Eliyahu Yishai, MK
Shas Party Office
Ariel Sharon, MK
Moshe Arens, MK
Uzi Landau, MK
Likud Party Office
Natan Sharansky, MK
Yisrael Be'Aliyah Party Office
Rechavam Ze'evy, MK
Benjamin Elon, MK
Michael Kleiner, MK
Ha-ichud Ha-leumi Party Office
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs