By Aaron Lerner

"The Left has forgotten what it is to be Jews," Prime Minister Netanyahu told Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri.

So here we go again. As fast as Labor Party leader Ehud Barak's speed dialer could reach Kol Yisrael he was on with his party's standard diatribe against the prime minister. Reminding the audience that Netanyahu appeared in Zion Square when the infamous Rabin in a Gestapo uniform photomontage was flashed and at Raanana Junction in front of the "Rabin Coffin".

Never mind that Netanyahu would have had to have telescopic vision to pick out the legal sized photomontage from the crowd - it was only noticed by the press thanks to the diligent efforts of GSS agent provocateur Avishai Raviv. The "Rabin Coffin" is also a hoax. It was a "Zionism Coffin" to represent what the protesters believed the late PM's policies were doing to Zionism and clearly stated it with the slogan "Rabin is burying Zionism" on the side of the coffin.

Don't get me wrong. There is much to criticize about what Mr. Netanyahu is doing and not doing. It is far from clear what plan the PM has. That is, if he has a plan. And there is no great solace in knowing that the Labor-Meretz ministers also had no idea what plan Yitzhak Rabin had. Or worse, as Mrs. Leah Rabin confided to MK Yosse Beilin, there was no plan.

And that's the pity. Here we are at a critical juncture in the history of the Jewish People and instead of a logical and - yes - passionate - debate about where we should be going, we are served with almost daily diversions.

Could it be that Ehud Barak has nothing significant to say ? Let's consider several key issues:

There is wall to wall agreement that Israel cannot accept the return of a significant number of Palestinian refugees to within the Green Line.

There's not one Israeli figure - politician or otherwise - who claims Israel can live with a militarized Palestinian entity.

The Oslo Agreement puts security in the Gaza airport and seaport squarely in Israeli hands but the Palestinians want to change that. While opposition critics call for Netanyahu to speed up the negotiations, no Labor or Meretz MK has publicly suggested that Israel can relinquish security control over traffic between the Palestinian entity and the outside world.

The same goes for the so called "free passages" between Gaza and the West Bank. With the exception of Peres' fantasy skybridge linking the two, no one seriously advocates bisecting Israel with the Palestinian controlled road Arafat demands.

With the exception of the extreme Left, Israelis insist on a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty as well as the continuation of Israeli settlements in Greater Jerusalem [expanded to include the Etzion Bloc and beyond], the Jordan Valley, and the other major settlements.

On the question of the release of terrorists, only the extreme Left can stomach freeing terrorists today with "blood on their hands."

Given this broad consensus on so many issues one would hope and expect that responsible opposition leaders would take the role of a loyal opposition. But instead of actively supporting the government in these critical negotiations, the opposition prefers to undermine Netanyahu's negotiating position.

And they do this with a passion. Telling the world that the Israeli government is not serious about peace and ignoring Arafat's intransigent demands. Demands which they themselves reject.

Now it would be one thing if the PM could withstand all the pressure. But Netanyahu's record to date doesn't indicate that this is the case. Time and again he has backed down from the principle of Palestinian compliance and reciprocity.

And these are not minor problems. Israel faces today an already militarized Palestinian entity and there is no indication when, if ever, there will be the kind of properly supervised and inspected roll back in Palestinian forces to acceptable levels.

Sure, blasting Netanyahu daily may very well impact the weekly public opinion polls. But the only poll that really counts will take place on election day. And by then the 1997 opinion polls will be long forgotten.

Israel not only deserves - its very future may well hinge on - a responsible loyal opposition. It's not too late for Ehud Barak to show that he has the maturity to be a true national leader. [October 23,1997]


Dr. Aaron Lerner is Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis) POB 982 Kfar Sava) Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-9-7411645


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