THE EXPRESSION “Ship of Fools” was used by a Swiss theologian 515 years ago as the title of a book harshly criticizing the Catholic church of his day.Its licentiousness, he foresaw, would lead to disaster. And indeed, shortly afterward a monk named Martin Luther split the church and set in motion the great Reformation.I used this phrase in the 70s to define the era between the two wars – the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973, six years spent by Israel in a state of foolish euphoria. The present era deserves the title “Ship of Fools 2”.The defining slogan of “Ship of Fools 1” was coined by Moshe Dayan, who served as first officer on its bridge, at the right hand of the captain, Golda Meir. Dayan declared: “If I have to choose between Sharm Al-Sheikh without peace or peace without Sharm al-Sheikh, I choose Sharm Al-Sheikh.”
In retrospect, that sounds like sheer madness. Who, today, remembers Ophira, as we called Sharm at the time? “Ship of Fools 1” set sail for its fateful voyage on the morrow of the Six-Day War, when the new Hebrew Empire extended from the summit of Mount Hermon to the shining sea of Ras Muhammad, south of Sharm. The astounding six-day victory of the Israeli Army over three Arab armies looked like a miracle. A deluge of victory songs, victory albums and victory speeches flooded the country. The intoxication swept all sectors of the public, from the top leaders to the last (Jewish) citizen. In Israel, there was an atmosphere of supreme self-confidence, which led to complete carelessness. “Everything will be OK”. The economy was flourishing. The first settlements were taking root. There was no pressure on Israel to return the territories it had just conquered. The Arab League met in Khartoum and did Israel an immense favor by declaring the Three Nos – No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel. Plucky little Israel attracted the sympathy of the world.
This week, Aluf Ben of Haaretz drew our attention to a recording just released by the President Nixon Library. This includes a recording of his meeting with Golda Meir in the first half of 1973 – a few months before the Yom Kippur War. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger revealed to Golda that the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, was ready to make peace with Israel in return for Sinai. Golda treated the proposal with disdain and told Nixon that the Egyptians had no chance against Israel.Golda was a tough but primitive woman. In the middle of 1973 Golda and Dayan looked around them and could detect no cloud – not event the tiniest one – on the horizon.Aluf Ben sees similarities between the Golda-Nixon meeting and the Netanyahu-Obama talks. I agree. We are sailing again on a Ship of Fools, jolly and light-hearted.We never had it so good. Our economic situation is splendid. As far as security is concerned, our situation has never been better. The suicide attacks have ceased altogether. The northern border is almost quiet. The occasional incidents on the Gaza border are not worrisome. On the political level, the sky is the limit for our achievements. In several rounds we have thrown Barack Obama on the boards. The frantic scurrying around of Hillary Clinton and George Mitchel is simply pathetic. The settlement construction is gathering even more momentum, with the help of thousands of Palestinian workers who have no other means of subsistence.
The Israeli government rules Washington D.C. more firmly than ever. The new Congress is even more loyal to Israel than the old one. Just now, the outgoing House unanimously passed a resolution objecting to the declaration of Palestinian statehood. After his resounding defeat in the midterm elections, Obama must start to think about the presidential election in two years’ time. It’s difficult to imagine that in these two years he would dare to provoke the mighty Israel lobby. Obama can say what he wants: In a real test he will have to veto any Security Council resolution which is distasteful to the Israeli government. He will have no choice.Those who had illusions about Netanyahu – Israelis and others – seem to have sobered up by now. He does not want peace, nor a “peace process”, nor any movement at all toward peace.For Netanyahu, peace is a four-letter word (as it indeed is in Hebrew). And not only because he has an extreme right-wing coalition, full of racists and ultra-nationalists, who are happy to play host to fascists from all over the world. And not only from fear of the settlers, whose political clout is growing by the day. But also because Netanyahu himself does not want to enter the history books as the man who gave up parts of the Jewish homeland and turned them over to the Arabs.
With all the differences, there are a lot of similarities between Netanyahu and Golda Meir. True, there is no second Moshe Dayan – Ehud Barak looks like a piece of wood compared to his one-eyed predecessor with his overflowing charisma. Avigdor Lieberman would be only too happy to fill the vacuum – if he could.Everything is all right, nothing to worry about. This time, the euphoria is not producing a harvest of victory albums and songs of glory, but a deluge of racist laws that apartheid South Africa would have been jealous of, and declarations of rabbis who boast of conserving our “racial purity” (and we need not mention the place where that notion came from).This euphoria leads to acts whose sole aim – so it seems – is to provoke and humiliate. An outstanding example: This week it became known that Israel is about to enlarge the “Seven Arches” hotel on the top of the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem – a hotel that belongs to the Jordanian royal family and was expropriated by the Custodian of Enemy Property.”Ship of Fools 1″ went down on Yom Kippur. 2600 young Israelis, the flower of a generation, drowned with it. The “incapable” Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal in 1973, and the glorious Bar-Lev Line, the pride of the Israeli Army, collapsed.”Ship of Fools 2″ will also founder. We cannot foresee how. Will it be a war that will lay waste to our towns and villages? Will it be an Islamic revolution in the Arab countries? Will world politics change dramatically?
There is one important difference between Ship 1 and Ship 2: Then the whole world loved us, now many around the world detest us. The manifesto of the 26 leading European elder statesmen, who demand that their successors change the European policy toward Israel, is a very bad omen. When the inevitable crisis arrives, world public opinion will no longer be on our side. It will be on the side of the Palestinians.Somebody wrote this week that America’s support of Israel is a case of “assisted suicide”. In Israel, assisting suicide is a crime. Suicide itself, however, is allowed by our laws. Let’s hope we recover our senses before it is too late – Arabnews