By Gideon Levy
A call should be made to the Consumers Council: This is a case of wholesale fraud. In the sea of thieves, embezzlers and crooks around us, this is the largest deceit of all. The majority of Israeli citizens voted for a centrist government, perhaps even a bit left of center, and received one of the most extreme right-wing governments in the history of Israel.
We voted for Kadima, which promised convergence and an end to the occupation. We voted for Ehud Olmert, the left flank of Ariel Sharon, who was carried aloft (solely) on the wings of the disengagement's success. We voted for Shimon Peres, who always promises peace. We voted for the Pensioners, who did not speak like right-wingers. We voted for the Big Bang, which was supposed to be a harbinger of a pragmatic turnabout. And what did we receive? The world already knows and we should also recognize this: a benighted, right-wing government.
The 28,000 participants in a recent survey by the BBC World Service in 27 countries ranked Olmert's Israel, together with Ahmadinejad's Iran, as the countries having the most negative influence on the world. The current government is largely responsible for the fact that Israelis do not care that they are viewed this way. In a country where people are quick to sue a travel agency for a vacation package that did not meet their expectations, the masses of voters who fell victim to the great fraud remain silent.
The settlers establish another illegal outpost in Hebron, and most Israelis are not interested in the most criminal settlement of them all. And what does their government say? A front is already forming to oppose the evacuation. The Arab League extends its hand for peace and the 52 percent of Israelis who have heard of the Saudi initiative say it could constitute a basis for negotiation. And what does their government say? It makes a sour face and quashes the chance. There are signs of a chance to liberate Gilad Shalit and create a new atmosphere with the Palestinians; 45 percent of Israelis are in favor of releasing prisoners "with blood on their hands" and only 36 percent are opposed. And their government? It categorically rejects the Palestinian proposal. The majority of Israelis tell the pollsters that they are in favor of establishing a Palestinian state and evacuating settlements. And what is their government doing to realize the aspirations of its voters? Not a thing. It has been a long time since such a wide disparity has existed between the views of the public and the government, a disparity that makes democracy look like a bandage.
This gap reaches its peak in the case of the building in Hebron. In a government that raised the banner of evacuating settlements, there are quite a few ministers who are opposed to evacuating a building that was inhabited without a permit. Even a single building. Who are these opponents? Is it only Avigdor Lieberman? The prime minister himself has already promised not to evacuate the building, according to MK Effi Eitam. There is also Roni Bar-On from the "moderate" Kadima party, Eli Yishai from Shas and even Rafi Eitan from the Pensioners. "Israeli territory" is what Eitan calls the heart of the Palestinian city, where nearly 20,000 residents have already been forced to flee in fear of the settlers.
Never have the settlers been in a worse situation in terms of public opinion. Never has their situation been better in the government. After we thought the disengagement had rid us of their caprices and that they had been proved a paper tiger, the government is again intimidated by them, as in their heyday. The Marzels are provoking again, and they are winning again. How many Israelis have ever visited Hebron? How many of them have seen the dreadfulness with their own eyes? And look at how many of them are willing to continue to suffer the misdeeds of the settlers, to pay such a steep price for them, and to remain silent.
There is no protest in Israel and no center. Only radicalism speaks: The fragments of the far left still go out to protest, and the settlers continue with their extortion. If once their source of strength was broad public support, their source of strength now is an all-encompassing apathy. In a comatose society, the settlers can terrorize Olmert, Bar-On and Eitan. In a comatose government, inaction is turning into extreme right-wingedness.
But now we are also coming under suspicion. Perhaps when we are voting for the center and the left, we actually want the right? Maybe what we really want is a nationalistic, rightist government, and that all of the rest - the ostensibly enlightened talk about ending the occupation and evacuating settlements, human rights and a Palestinian state - is nothing more than a loathsome falsehood and self-deception?