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Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio -- Broadcast on August 12, 1999 / Elul 1, 5759
THE SOLDIER OF PROMISE
By Jay Shapiro
NOT ALL BATTLES ARE THE SAME
It is interesting that during the recent election campaign for prime minister, Ehud Barak was advertised as Israel's most decorated soldier. His record is indeed commendable. No one can question his personal bravery and sacrifice. However, this type of soldier-boy candidate packaging - a rather hoary tradition in Israel - has for some time now been dysfunctional and detrimental to the national interest.
In the First World War, the US produced a genuine hero by the name of Alvin York. York was a farmer from Tennessee who performed the remarkable feat of capturing 132 German soldiers - single-handedly. In the Second World War, America produced another genuine hero named Audie Murphy, who was awarded just about every medal the armed services had to offer. So why were Sergeant York and Audie Murphy not made candidates for the presidency? Very simple: There exists no proof that there is a direct relationship between bravery on the battlefield and the ability to govern or to make major decisions for a nation. Or the vision, if any, that the hero has for the future of the state.
Nevertheless, our present prime minister was packaged as Israel's military star. One of the campaign television advertisements that was repeated ad nauseum showed the young Barak on the wing of the Sabena airplane that was liberated from terrorists. Despite seeing these demonstrations of his bravado, I still fail to comprehend the link between his ability as a warrior and his success as prime minister. His actions thus far confirm that there is no such connection.
THE ARMY YOU LOVE TO HATE
Part of the explanation for the soldier/politician pattern may lie in Israel's complex relationship with its army and its recent military history. This relationship has developed into a sort of twisted, love-hate syndrome that defies all logic. Alongside its embrace of a plastic "peace" and its incessant public rituals of shame over Israel's past exercise of military power, so much of the secular Left still insists on clinging to the apron strings of its most renowned field marshals.
It might be that the top army brass are perceived as the personification of the Second Aliyah, kibbutz, Ashkenazi, anti-religious, socialist elite. Or perhaps it is because in the final analysis, the self-image of the secular Left is in perfect tune with the hollow and superficial persona of Barak, Rabin, and Weizmann. These links have been exquisitely understood and exploited by the propaganda apparatus of the Labor Party, selling the treachery of the Oslo process - and who knows what vulgar variations still await us - by channeling it through the mouths of the generals.
It would seem that Barak has become to Israel what Nelson Mandela was to South Africa. Allow me to explain. When I was a child in America, the Second World War was raging. As a child, I was given to understand that all the hardships that we endured, even in America, were because of the war. The lack of toys, the lack of fuel for automobiles, the scarcity of numerous products--all these things that loom large in the eyes and the mind of a child were blamed on the war. And it was true.
But to a child, it meant that when the war was over, everything immediately would become available. I remember that on the day the war ended, when people were celebrating in the streets, I triumphantly declared to my mother that now, the very next day, we could have all the things that were lacking because of the war. I remember that my mother laughed and said that things would take time. This was difficult for a child to understand.
The same thing happened recently in South Africa. The people there, in childlike fashion and with lack of sophistication and experience, thought that upon the election of Nelson Mandela, all the things that they wanted and dreamed of would immediately materialize. I believe that one of the reasons for the breakdown in law and order in South Africa today is because of the disappointment of the people.
Closer to home, back in May, when Benyamin Netanyahu conceded defeat in the election, crowds raced into the streets to dance and cheer. The hate mongers popped open the champagne. The peace process would start again, jobs would be created, college tuition would be abolished. There was no limit to the beautiful world about to sprout from the seed planted by Barak's defeat of Netanyahu. Now, still only weeks after the new government took office, it is beginning to occur to people that nothing really has changed.
On the contrary, the stock market has declined because of fear of the new government's fiscal policies; the government is calling for huge cuts in the budget; Arafat is still shrieking for jihad. Barak, of course, is expected to make good on all his promises. He promised 300,000 new jobs, free education, and lots of other goodies. This does not sit well with the proposed budget cuts. It is finally beginning to dawn on those who were the loudest merrymakers when Netanyahu was defeated that Barak indulged in a festival of blandishments that were forgotten by him the morning after the election.
He ran on a platform of domestic reform, hardly mentioning foreign affairs. Since the election he has spent most of his time zipping around the world, preoccupied with international relations. The Labor Party and the media, thus far blinded by their hate for Netanyahu, are now sensing the new reality. Until now, the only open attacks on Barak have come from the disappointed politicians of the Labor Party. When it begins to really sink in that Barak promised much more than he can deliver, there probably will be a reaction, the form of which cannot yet be predicted.
PEACE & WAR: A NEW LINKAGE
I would like to discuss the Oslo agreement in the larger picture. Beyond the fact that Arafat and the PLO have not changed one iota since Oslo, there is an additional point to consider. All the "experts" said in unison that an agreement with the Palestinians also would lead to peace with the Arab and Muslim world. But today, seven years after we signed the Oslo accord and starting carving up our homeland and handing it over to our sworn enemies, the Prime Minister and Chief of Staff are warning us that we face an existential threat greater than anything we have faced previously. This threat comes from nonconventional weapons that can be mounted on long-range missiles and launched from distant Muslim countries, such as Iraq and Iran.
In theory, the Palestinian problem is being resolved and these remote countries have no border disputes with us or any other tangible conflicts. Then why are the Muslim countries arming to the teeth? Where did it come from all of a sudden?
Israel is also arming considerably in this so-called era of peace. After Oslo, Israel purchased F-15 fighter planes capable of carrying out long-range strategic missions. Now that peace is 15 months away, says Barak, Israel has decided to purchase another series of similar, expensive planes. And we are all aware of the development of the Arrow missile and know practically everything about the strategic options of the Dolphin submarine.
Something is very wrong with the vision of peace that has been preached to us by the likes of Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin. With the advent of peace, it was predicted by the dreamers that there would no longer be a need for huge defense expenditures which come at the expense of education, immigration, neighborhoods, infrastructures, industrialization of development towns, and advancing the Arab sector. And now, in return for Oslo and Hevron and Wye, our neighbors in the "New Middle East" are preparing ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Israel's withdrawal is boosting, not reducing, the existential threats; and the concessions and weaknesses are boosting, not reducing, the motivation to destroy Israel.
ADVICE TO OUR LEADERS
So it appears that all those who claimed that the Palestinian problem is the heart of the conflict in the Middle East were completely wrong. The heart of the conflict was and remains the very existence of a Jewish state in general, and in the Middle East in particular. Yet these developments do not have any affect whatsoever on the politicians. They would be well-advised to begin listening to the words of Arafat. He does not lie to his own people; if we choose to ignore what he is saying to them, we can only sink further into the quicksand.
One of Netanyahu's most regrettable mistakes was not drawing the line just as he came into office. He should have halted the phony peace process and required the other side to meet all the obligations of Oslo before continuing. The PLO would not have done so because they are incapable and unwilling to renounce their very raison d'etre - the destruction of Israel. Now it is Barak's turn. If he continues the phony process, he will lead us into more danger. Now is the time to stop before the price of stopping gets higher. The sooner Barak puts his foot down, the better off we will all be.
Jay Shapiro heads a consulting firm dealing with United States Government contracting. Host of a popular current events show on Arutz-7 English broadcasts, and the author of several books, he has worked extensively to promote aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.