The Elements of Oslo: Drug trafficking & high treason?

The arrest of former Minister Gonen Segev, on charges of treason, constitute a regrettable vindication of my assessment of the man – over 25 years ago.

….the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments…. He rots the soul of a nation…he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist…The traitor is the plagueMarcus Tullius Cicero, (106-43 B.C.), on Treason.

It has been an eventful week—and several other topics could well have been the focus of this INTO THE FRAY column—for example, the court decision to quash the confessions extracted under duress from the suspects of the Duma arson; or the ineffective IDF response to the continuing violence emanating from Gaza; or the looming “ultimate deal”, which, it is rumored, is soon to be advanced by the Trump administration.

Tectonic impact

I chose, however , to deal with the announcement on Monday, that former government minister, Gonen Segev, had been arrested on suspicion of spying for Iran and detained on charges of treason involving “espionage, aiding an enemy in war time, as well as providing information to the enemy.”

The reasons for this choice were both personal and substantive: Personal, because of my acquaintance with Segev in the past when I warned of his grave character flaws; and substantive, because of the tectonic (albeit seldom conceded) impact these flaws have had on the fate of the nation since then.

Of course, this is not the first brush the ex-minister has had with the law, nor the first time he has brought disgrace to the political edifice of the nation.

Readers will recall that in 2004, he was arrested on charges of  drug smuggling—along with credit-card fraud and misuse of an expired diplomatic passport—and subsequently convicted and jailed for several years. Following his imprisonment, Segev moved to Nigeria, where apparently, his initial contacts with Iranian officials were made—and his alleged espionage activities began.

Of course, it is yet unclear how much damage Segev’s suspected betrayal of his country in recent years has caused. There can, however, be little doubt as to the huge damage that his betrayal of his voters, 26 years ago, wrought on the nation—when he crossed ideological lines, abandoned his hawkish electoral pledges and facilitated the ratification of the Oslo Accords.

Segev & Oslo: The Ethical Parallels

Accordingly, up until Monday, we knew that the Oslo Accords, which:
– conferred international acclaim on the arch-murderer Arafat;

-cost thousands of Israelis their lives—and many more, their limbs;

– provided Judeocidal gangs access to military grade explosives; and

– allowed armed terrorist militias to deploy within mortar range of our nation’s capital;

owed their existence to a convicted drug smuggler that betrayed his voters, who sent him to the Knesset to prevent precisely the policy he permitted.

Since last Monday, we know that these appalling accords, that brought so much death and destruction to Israeli streets, buses, and sidewalk cafes, came about not only due to someone who dealt in drugs and who betrayed his voters—but someone who, it seems, betrayed his country and his people—in the very real sense of the word.

There are numerous  parallels between Gonen Segev and Oslo.

Indeed, in many ways, Segev and Oslo are the moral (or rather “immoral”) reflections of each other.

While Segev himself represents a mark of shame on Israel’s public life and “point of singularity” in terms of deceit and duplicity; so too the Oslo Accords represent a mark of shame on our national history, a reprehensible nadir of broken promises, public deception and self-delusion.

Almost like Siamese twins

Moreover, in many ways, almost like Siamese twins, neither Segev nor Oslo would exist without the other—without the essential symbiosis between them. After all, without Segev and his uninhibited proclivity for treachery, there would be no Oslo. So too, without Oslo and the desperate desires of those who concocted it, there would have been no Segev in a ministerial post, which gave him access to the information he allegedly supplied to the enemy.

So just as Oslo embraced bitter enemies –so did Segev.

Indeed, in large measure, Oslo was a point of inflexion in the history of Zionism, after which nothing was as it was before. Everything once a hallowed virtue (such as attachment to the homeland and proactive Jewish settlement throughout it) became a heinous vice.

So too Segev, in large measure became a point of inflexion in the annals of Israeli politics, a point beyond which a sense of shame disappeared as a constraint on the behavior of elected incumbents, and after which “prostitution” of the profession of politics became acceptable, even expected. Political pledges became worthless and commitment to ideological principles, nothing more than bargaining chips to be swiftly exchanged if and when a more personally advantageous opportunity was detected.

Unbridled individual ambition became the supreme value, pushing aside any obstacle in the way of its pursuit and consuming any moral inhibition that might impede its fulfilment.

Oslo’s deadly derivatives

Earlier, I suggested that Segev’s treachery had a “tectonic” impact on events that subsequently unfolded.

Allow me to elaborate—and corroborate—this seemingly far-reaching condemnation.

After all, Oslo was not a stand-alone disaster. To the contrary—it was the harbinger of successive calamities, which inevitably arose from its implementation.

In large measure, Segev was their midwife—their indispensable facilitator.

For, as mentioned, Oslo owes its birth to Segev, who clearly had it in his power to prevent it–but chose to deliver it instead.

So, just as without Segev, there would be no Oslo, so without Oslo there would be no Second Intifada, there would be no Disengagement, there would no uprooting of Jewish communities in Gush Katif, there would be no Hamas takeover of Gaza, no terror tunnels, no arsenal of fearsome rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns far removed from Gaza.

All of these, and more, were, incontrovertibly, the pernicious progeny of Oslo; each, demonstrably, a deadly derivative of that infamous and ignominious initiative, all the pestilent products of Segev’s perfidy.

But beyond the gory procession of failures that the Segev-facilitated Oslo Accords ushered in, there was a far more profound—and sinister—degenerative effect, which began to afflict the tenor of Zionist thinking. For once the Oslo process began to dominate the political stage in Israel, its continued sustenance called for a sea-change in what hitherto had characterized Zionism’s approach to Israel’s foes. Whereas in the pre-Oslo era, the emphasis had been on robust, uncompromising deterrence; in the post-Oslo era all this changed—since persisting with it would have resulted in the swift demise of the initiative. Instead, the political leadership now embraced appeasement and far-reaching leniency toward enemy excesses and violations of commitments.

The consequences of this tectonic conceptual shift, we see today in the raging fires, the burnt out fields and the charred forests in the areas surrounding Gaza…

A personal perspective

I first encountered Gonen Segev, in early 1992, when I served as the Secretary-General of the TSOMET movement.  He then appeared out of nowhere, after years during which he had not been seen participating in any activities of the movement, to compete for second place in the TSOMET list for the Knesset. (For readers whose political memory does not go back 26 years, TSOMET was a non-observant, hawkish party, which vehemently opposed the “land-for-peace” concept , on which the Oslo Accords were based.

To many—apparently including the TSOMET chairman, former IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt-Gen. Rafael (“Raful”) Eitan—he appeared to be “the salt of the Earth”, a sturdy, good-looking young man, an authentic Israeli with a medical degree and a record of IDF combat service, who was both charismatic and charming. Many—apparently including Raful— were led astray by his deceptive charms–which eventually led to the demise of the movement in which they placed their trust and the decline in public support for the principles in which they believed.

Similarly, to many—apparently including former IDF chief-of-staff,  Yitzhak Rabin—the Oslo Agreements were perceived as a refreshing and innovative initiative, a masterstroke of far-reaching and far-sighted statesmanship, ushering in a new era of regional peace and prosperity, in an EU-like “New Middle East”,  stretching from Kuwait to Casablanca, from the slopes of the Atlas Mountains to the shores of the Persian Gulf.

Like Segev, so Oslo.  Many—apparently including Rabin—fell prey to its deceptive allure (or rather, sinister spell) and allowed themselves to be led astray—until the disintegration of  their “noble” vision.

A compulsive liar who gives deceit a bad name

In summation, allow me a brief lapse of modesty and a short personal epilogue.

As opposed to many, I was not deceived by Segev’s ample guiles. On the contrary, I quickly identified him as a compulsive liar, who “gives deceit a bad name”. As proof of this, the moment he was elected—with the support of Raful—to the number two slot on the TSOMET list, in place of the late Yoash Tsiddon, one of the most outstanding parliamentarians the Knesset has ever known, I withdrew my name from the list of contenders for other slots—and resigned from my post of Secretary-General .

The rest is history—and at times I wonder how different that history would have been if others had followed my lead…

Oslo at twenty-four – Failing the “crystal ball” test

If Rabin had a crystal ball that allowed him to foresee the terrible trauma and tragedy the Oslo Agreements would cause, there is little doubt that he would have never agreed to its signature.

We have come to try and put an end to the hostilities, so that our children, our children’s children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war, violence and terror. We have come to secure their lives and to ease the sorrow and the painful memories of the past to hope and pray for peace.  – Yitzhak Rabin at the signing ceremony of the Oslo I Accords, Washington, D.C. September 13, 1993.

This September marked the passing of 24 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords. Although little is left of the heady—the less charitable might say, “irresponsible”—optimism that accompanied the signing ceremony on the White House lawns on that fateful day in September 1993, the “two-states-for-two-peoples” format it forged, still – inexplicably—dominates the discourse as the sole principle upon which a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict can be based.

Puzzling and Perturbing

Future historians will doubtless find this both puzzling and perturbing—for although the two-state formula has been regularly disproven, for some unfathomable reason, it has never been discredited—and certainly never discarded.

In many ways, the continued “durability” of the Oslowian “recipe” is astonishing.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what else should happen, what further disaster should befall both Jew and Arab, for it to be abandoned as the abject failure it has incontrovertibly proved to be.  

After all, when the Oslo process was first instituted there were proponents and opponents –with the former promising sweeping benefits (such as peace, prosperity and a thriving harmonious Mid-East stretching from Casablanca to Kuwait), while the latter warned of dire dangers (such as spiraling terror and pervasive turmoil).

Now, almost a quarter-century later, one might have been forgiven for thinking that “the jury was no longer out”. For one thing is indisputable.  None of the benefits promised by proponents have materialized, while virtually all the dangers warned of by the opponents have befallen the strife-torn region and its unfortunate inhabitants.

Yet stubbornly—indeed, obsessively—two-staters cling to the tenets of their political dogma—no matter what the human cost; no matter how much evidence of their tragic error continues to inexorably accumulate…

Hardly a revolutionary revelation

Sadly, this is hardly a revolutionary revelation. To the contrary, it has long been starkly apparent to anyone with a smidgeon of intellectual integrity.

Indeed, seventeen years ago, just weeks after the Palestinian-Arabs launched their gory wave of violence (a.k.a. the Second Intifada), an article of mine appeared on Israel’s most trafficked Hebrew-language site, YNet.  It was entitled “The Crystal Ball”. The sub-headline read:   “The Oslo process and its basic assumptions have failed the test of reality”.

In it, I wrote: “Up until a few weeks ago, there might have been room for a debate on whether the Oslo process was a success or a failure. Up until a few weeks ago it might have been possible—albeit with great difficulty—to understand those whose faith in the “process” had not yet faded. But now [i.e. November, 2000], the debate is over! Now it is quite clear that the “political process: has totally failed.

When,” I asked “should one conclude that one’s chosen path is mistaken?”; and in response, suggested that:  “As a general rule, one should admit that one’s chosen policy has failed if one would not have chosen it, had the consequences of that choice been known beforehand”.

Failing the test of reality

I then proposed: “… let us imagine that on that fateful day in September 1993, on which the Oslo agreements were signed, the people of Israel and their leaders had at their disposal a crystal ball by means of which they could foresee the future consequences of those agreements. Let us imagine that the architects of those accords, who…promised the nation the dawn of a new era…of ‘days without worry and nights without fear’, could foretell the fate of the country almost eight years after the pomp and ceremony of the occasion of their signature”.

I continued: “Let’s suppose that they would have known that almost a decade after the sweeping concessions that Israel was called on to make…the country would be plagued by fire, hatred and death, and that the guns, handed to the Palestinians, despite repeated warnings not to do so, would be turned against our soldiers, our women and our children. Let’s suppose that they would have known that despite our far-reaching willingness to accommodate our adversaries, our political situation in the world would be at its lowest ebb…”

I therefore, ventured to postulate: “I have no doubt that had the architects of these accords known that events would turn out as they have, they would not have signed them.  I have no doubt that had the public foreseen what has come about it would not have given its support to the process or to its initiators. Accordingly, we can categorically declare that the Oslo process, and the world view on which it was based, have utterly failed the ‘crystal ball test’ i.e. failed the test of reality.

Despite expectations…

In light of all this, I expressed what appeared to be a reasonable expectation: “…that, given the appalling consequences the political processes had precipitated, there would have been a wholesale abandonment of it by its [hitherto] supporters.

“However,” I lamented, “this was not the case. Despite the fact that not even a miniscule trace of any residual success could be found, a significant number of people…still refuse to acknowledge failure or error.  ‘There is still no other alternative’ they recite with dogmatic obstinacy.”

Of course, as I pointed out “, there is in fact no claim more baseless than the claim that there is ‘No alterative’”  Indeed,  as I underscored–“the burden of proof is now on the proponents of the Oslo process rather than on its opponents  to prove that they have a viable alternative…”

Moreover, had the imaginary 1993 crystal ball been able to look further into the future, what it would have revealed to the prospective signatories  of the ill-fated accords would have hardly been more encouraging.  Indeed, if anything quite the opposite is true!

Thus, for the five years after the publication of  the “Crystal Ball” article,  the carnage of the “Second Intifada” raged across the country,  with thousands of Israeli civilians being murdered and maimed—in shopping malls, on buses,  in street cafes and crowded restaurants.

What the crystal ball would have revealed…

Indeed, it was the bloody Passover massacre in March 2002 at the Park Hotel in the seaside resort of Netanya that led to Operation “Defensive Shield”, the first of a series of punitive military campaigns launched by the IDF when Palestinian-Arab terror reached unacceptably murderous levels, which the Israeli military was compelled to quell.

The ensuing decade was replete with recurring bloodshed. Thus, as the savage violence of the Second Intifada petered out in 2005, the very next year, 2006, heralded the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War.

Admittedly, the Second Lebanon War was not directly connected to the conflict with the Palestinian-Arabs. However, its roots can definitely be traced to the Oslowian land-for-peace mindset, when in June 2000,  Ehud Barak, capitulated to pressures from left-wing activists and surrendered South Lebanon to the Hezbollah by ordering an ignominious unilateral evacuation of the IDF.

Indeed, this unbecoming retreat has been widely identified as one of the major causes for the Second Intifada three months later (see for example here and here).  Thus, in the words of one punditthe message of weakness transmitted by the retreat from Lebanon encouraged the Palestinians to return to using violent methods.”

Barak’s abandonment of South Lebanon led to Hezbollah’s massive military buildup in the vacated territory, eventually culminating in the costly 2006 Second Lebanon War, whose mismanagement by the Olmert government allowed South Lebanon to become a fearsome arsenal—with over a 100,000 rockets and missiles, trained on Israel’s major civilian population centers and vital infrastructure installations, as well as the additional threat of trans-border attack tunnels.  

From “Cast Lead” to “Protective Edge”

It is of course an open question whether the Second Lebanon War in 2006 was due, at least in part, to another  unilateral  withdrawal—the  so-called “Disengagement” from Gaza in 2005.  There can however be little doubt that the Disengagement did lead to the Islamist takeover of Gaza in 2007, when in the wake of the power vacuum created by the IDF’s departure, the fundamentalist Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave, violently ejecting Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction.

In the wake of Hamas’s ascendance, there was a massive increase in attacks against Israel, with thousands of rockets, missiles and mortar shells being fired at civilian targets.  As a result, Israel was compelled to take action to restore stability and security for its citizens—which resulted in the first of three (and counting) post-Oslo IDF campaigns against Gaza, Operation Cast Lead in December 2008.  As a result of its military response to the ongoing terror attacks Israel was vilified in the international arena, particularly by the notorious Goldstone report , manufactured by a UN “fact finding” mission, which accused Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian-Arab civilians, used by Hamas as human shields.

Continual escalation of terror attacks drew Israel in to two further military campaigns.  

Less than four years after the end of Operation “Cast Lead”, Israel was forced undertake Operation “Pillar of Defense” in November 2012, following an intensification of rocket fire aimed at Israeli population centers.  Then, barely eighteen months later, with the brutal kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths, and indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli civilian targets, Israel was again obliged to use the military to restore calm – this time in Operation “Protective Edge” during which the alarming extent of the terror attack tunnels, excavated by Hamas, was exposed…

On the Palestinian side…

On the Palestinian side, our crystal ball would have swiftly dispelled the rosy predictions of a peaceful, prosperous EU-like Middle East stretching from the Sahara Desert to the Persian Gulf, that the Oslo Accords were supposed usher in.

Setting aside the rape, arson, slaughter and misery that raged across the post-Oslo Middle East as the chill winds of the Arab Spring swept through country after country, the Oslo accords brought scant benefits to the Palestinian-Arabs.

Indeed for the average man in the Palestinian street, Oslo wrought penury, not prosperity; despotism not democracy. After almost a quarter century since the ceremony and fanfare on the White House lawns, all the Palestinian-Arabs have to show is a an untenable    and strife-riven entity, with a dysfunctional polity and a collapsing economy – with a minuscule private sector and a bloated public one, wracked by corruption, and crippled by cronyism, manifestly unsustainable without massive infusions of foreign funds and the largesse of its alleged “oppressor”, Israel. 

In Gaza, where the experiment of Palestinian self-government was first instituted, the situation is particularly dire, with the specter of “humanitarian disaster” hovering over the general population. Awash in untreated sewage flows, with well over 90% of the water supply unfit for drinking, electrical power available for only a few hours a day and unemployment rates soaring to anything between 40-60%, Gazans, too, have good reason to rue the day the Oslo agreements were signed.

If Rabin had a crystal ball…

So if Yitzhak Rabin had had a crystal ball in September 1993,the depressing chain of events that would have unfolded before his eyes as he peered into the milky surface of the glass orb would be this:

A quarter century of spiraling terror  in city streets, buses, and cafes;  thousands of his countrymen maimed or murdered, four (arguably, five) military campaigns with hundreds of casualties, the dramatic enhancement of the quality and quantity of the weaponry of the terror organizations ranged against Israel; the huge cost of the barrier being constructed, high above and deep below, ground, to secure Israeli civilians from terrorist infiltration and tunnels…

So if indeed, Rabin could have foreseen that all this would be Israel’s lot in exchange for the gut-wrenching and perilous concessions the agreements called on it to make, who could doubt that he would never have affixed his signature to them…

Surely then, this—the Crystal Ball Test—is the ultimate indictment of the Oslo Agreements. Surely, it is time, after a quarter-century,  for them—and all that they stand for—to be branded what they indisputably turned out to be –a colossal and tragic blunder  of historic proportions—and to be treated as such.

The World Loved Him, Why?

With the death of Shimon Peres, folks are coming out from from around the world to offer their heartfelt condolences. My question is: WHY?!!  What is it about Shimon Peres that the whole world adored? Including the greatest lover of Israel of them all: Barack Obama!

In Israel it makes sense; the stridently leftist media, academia, labor, government cartel has enormous power, and to question Shimon Peres’ “greatness” is to be a total pariah from proper Israeli society, on all levels. Sadly this heavily affects the Religious Zionist community as well. The Haredi Community is the only one immune from it, aside from Hareidi Knesset members, who are in essence the designated liars of the community to the secular world. They too must play along.

But why does the world love Shimon Peres so much and why are they so saddened by his death? The same countries that are constantly condemning Israel at the UN. The same countries and leaders that quietly and not so quietly question Israel’s very right to exist in our ancestral homeland.  Those that are looking for any and every opportunity to weaken the Jewish Presence.

Of course nobody wants to discuss this today. Everyone loves the attention that Israel is getting from around the world. Well its time to grow up. This is not a teenager’s birthday celebration to see who will show up and how popular we are. This is life and death.

The hard cold truth: The world loved Shimon Peres because they thought he was the best chance they had at getting rid of/weakening the Jewish Presence in Israel. And they are truly sad because that hope just died. 

Shana Tova,

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem


Break the BDS

The Problem With Israeli Politics

Consider the following remarkable facts regarding Israel’s parliamentary history:

1) For 20 of the 28 years between 1977 (when Likud first won the elections on a platform of “Greater Israel”) and 2005 (when a Likud government withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in stark contradiction to its electoral pledges), the Israeli government was headed by a prime minister from Likud.

2) When Likud came to power, not only was the entire Sinai Peninsula under Israeli control, but any suggestion that Israel might evacuate the Jordan Valley was virtually unthinkable, any thought of dividing Jerusalem was tantamount to blasphemy, and any hint of withdrawal from the Golan was almost akin to treason.

3) Yet today, over a third of a century since Menachem Begin’s dramatic electoral victory over the hitherto hegemonic Labor party, all the above are either already widely accepted — even recommended — outcomes by much of the political mainstream in the country. Astonishingly, even the question of the strategically vital Golan Heights, which for several years disappeared from the political agenda because of the gory internal war in Syria, has recently reemerged as an issue for debate, despite the war in Syria.

Win elections; never get into power

These developments clearly demonstrate that, although the parties designated as the “right wing” regularly win elections and manage to form a ruling coalition, they somehow never really get into power, in the sense that they cannot — or dare not — implement the policies they were elected to implement. Worse, they appear coerced to adopt, with varying degrees of reluctance, the policies of their defeated “left-wing” rivals, which they were elected to prevent.

This is a phenomenon that can only be rationally accounted for by the existence of some influence, extraneous to the political system, which imposes on it outcomes that diverge dramatically from those that should be expected from the regular unhindered operation of that system.

Thus, Yitzhak Rabin, who, in 1992 was elected on the basis of a series of hawkish “nays” regarding negotiations with and concession to Yasser Arafat’s terrorist PLO, radically switched his policy mid-term, transforming them all to dovish “yeas,” which begot the Oslo fiasco.

Even more dramatically, Ariel Sharon, elected on a platform of vehement opposition to any notion of unilateral withdrawal, adopted precisely such policy, advocated by his Labor party rival, and rejected by the electorate.

It is difficult to overstate the implications of this phenomenon, which, for all intents and purposes, drains the Israeli democratic process of any significance. After all, it clearly negates the purpose of casting a vote at the ballot box — since, even if one’s preferred party prevails at the polls, the policy soon adopted is that which voters chose to renounce.

Spurious ’causes’

Three claims frequently raised to account for such blatant disregard for electoral pledges must be summarily rebuffed.

The first is that they were the result of international — particularly American — pressure. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the case of Oslo, the entire unfortunate process was covertly conceived exclusively by Israelis and Palestinians in remote Scandinavia, without any international coercion. Indeed, deep into the negotiation process, the PLO, cosignatory to the accords that emerged from this ill-considered initiative, was still classified as a terror organization by the U.S. government.

Neither can the disastrous Gaza disengagement be attributed to American, or other sources of external, pressures. Quite the reverse, Washington, initially highly skeptical as to the prudence of unilateral initiatives, had to be actively convinced by Sharon as to the merits of the idea.

The second claim that needs to be dispelled is that these mid-term policy reversals reflect some far-sighted wisdom in dovish policies of territorial concessions and political appeasement that make the post-election abandonment of more hawkish political platforms inevitable. Indeed, one of the most astonishing aspects of the Israeli political system is of ostensibly “hawkish” politicians adopting, once in power, “dovish” policies they previously repudiated. After all, these policies have consistently and continuously proved disastrous failures — making continued adherence to them utterly incomprehensible.

The third spurious claim is that because of Israel’s allegedly dysfunctional electoral system, elected coalitions cannot govern coherently and, to prevent their disintegration, are coerced to make concessions to recalcitrant partners.

However, internal coalition pressures and the exigencies of coalition preservation cannot account for the aforementioned policy decisions, since there were no internal coalition pressures to adopt them. Quite the opposite. Several coalition members, in fact, resigned in protest against them.

Unholy trinity?

So if the most dramatic political initiatives over the last two decades cannot be attributed to international pressure, to the far-sighted “wisdom” of Israeli leaders, to domestic political pressures or the preferences of the Israeli electorate, to what can they be ascribed?

The answer to this critical conundrum is to be found more in Israel’s sociological structure, rather than its political mechanisms.

More specifically, it lies in the composition of its civil society elites: the ones who dictate the tone of Israel’s legal establishment, dominate much of its mainstream media and hold the sway in the country’s academia (particularly in the social sciences and humanities — where the politically correct regularly overrides the factually correct).

These groups comprise an interactive “trinity of influence” that, in effect, dictates much of the socio-political discourse in Israel, which in turn determines how politicians perceive their policy constraints and possibilities. This allows them to set the overall tenor and direction of the national agenda at the strategic level. They manage to inculcate their worldview into the decision-making processes of elected politicians with impressive effectiveness and manipulate the perceptions of the general public as to the prevailing political realities the country faces.

Accordingly, from their unelected position of privilege, power and prestige, this trinity of elites has both the ability and the motivation to impose on the elected incumbents an agenda that diverges significantly from electoral pledges — and from the promotion and preservation of the long-term national interest.

Seeking approval of peers abroad

Thus, for example, the legal elite can impede any assertive initiative that the elected polity may wish to implement. Similarly, the media elite can promote any concessionary initiative that the elected polity may be loath to implement. And when the stamp of professional approval is required for either, the amenable and biased academic elite is ever-ready to provide it.

It requires little analytical acumen to identify that these were the mechanisms that, in large measure, generated — or at least facilitated — most of the major political processes over the last two decades. Accordingly, the ability to understand the political realities in Israel is contingent on understanding the worldview and the cost-benefit analysis of these powerful and influential elites.

For them, the approval of peer groups abroad is far more important in determining their agenda than the approval of Israeli citizens at home. Invitations to deliver keynote speeches at high-profile conventions, sought-after appointments as visiting scholars at prestigious institutes and lucrative grants for research projects are far more forthcoming if one is identified as empathetic to the Palestinian narrative rather than as committed to the Zionist one.

Far-reaching effects

This reality has far-reaching effects.

For example, it prevents Israeli public diplomacy — largely under the sway of these elites — from portraying the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, as they truly are. After all, such an assertive portrayal would make the dominant elites’ worldview look outrageously irresponsible. They are thus compelled to depict the Arab/Palestinian side in a far more favorable light than reality warrants, while portraying the Israeli side in a far more negative one — otherwise there would be no justification in handing over areas of vital strategic importance to Arab/Palestinian control.

After all, to acknowledge Arab brutality and backwardness, to focus on the repression of women, the suppression of dissidents, and the oppression of homosexuals; to draw attention to the harassing of critical journalists and the hounding of political opponents, would gravely undermine the prudence of any policy advocating the establishment of a Palestinian entity barely a mile from the Knesset, overlooking Ben-Gurion International Airport, and adjacent to the Trans-Israel Highway.

Danger to democracy

The gravity of the consequences that the imposition of elite political preferences has on Israeli policy, and the debilitating effect it will inevitably have on the democratic process, cannot be ignored. These dramatic minority elite-induced policy reversals constitute a powerful disincentive for taking part in the electoral process — indeed, for even considering it of any worth at all.

After all, what is the point of voting any party or person into power if they end up implementing precisely what was rejected by the voters? And once the electorate loses faith in democratic governance, what is there to prevent the onset of “alternative” forms of governance?

(Originally Published on Israel Hayom)