Jennifer Loewenstein Archive

Last update - 08:48 30/11/2005

The masked ball

By Uzi Benziman
Haaretz, 30 Nov. 2005

The parties strut and fret their hour upon the political stage, wearing masks: a new platform is issued every day, a different cast of players is announced each morning. At first glance, the dance steps delineate a drastic change in the familiar choreography. But something in the performance is off: All of the parties are moving to the center of the stage, and it is getting sweaty and crowded there. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish between them.

A draft of the Kadima party platform was made public on Monday. It comes to terms with the establishment of a Palestinian state that would be demilitarized and devoid of terror organizations, adherence to the road map - so long as that means the annexation of settlement blocs, ensuring the unity of Jerusalem, an absolute denial of the right of return and secure borders.

The Likud has not yet selected its leader, and has not yet publicized a platform, but its leading candidate, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks in terms that are no different from the diplomatic conceptions of Sharon's party. Netanyahu declares his readiness to make territorial concessions in Judea and Samaria, as long as they are made as part of a give-and-take deal with the Palestinians. His main quarrel with Ariel Sharon had to do with the one-sided nature of the disengagement plan. The diplomatic stance taken by Shaul Mofaz and Silvan Shalom, as far as can be said, is even more moderate than that of Netanyahu. Only Uzi Landau harbors more hawkish views (not to mention Moshe Feiglin), but he, too, is cagey about answering the following question: How can one reconcile annexation proclivities with pledges to uphold the democratic and Jewish character of the state?

Nor does Amir Peretz step onto the stage without make-up. At the rally marking the 10th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's death, he announced the victory of the Oslo Accords, and created the impression that he identifies with it entirely, and espouses it as his diplomatic conscience. Afterward, Peretz began to blur his messages, clearly making an effort to distinguish between the peace process generated by Rabin, and the Geneva formula. In a formulaic speech that he read from a written text at the Labor Party Central Committee, he merrily committed to preserve the unity of Jerusalem forever, vehemently rejected the right of return, and declared an unflinching war on terror. Peretz is assiduously trying to set Labor apart from Meretz (he rebuffed overtures to fashion a joint political alliance) and favors the road map. You would need a powerful microscope to spot any differences between his avowed diplomatic program and Kadima's draft platform, as publicized Monday by Tzipi Livni.

A similar sight is revealed on the right flank of the stage. The National Religious Party and the National Union are conducting a mating ritual meant to hurdle the gaps between Moledet, Tekuma and Religious Zionism, and between the three splinter parties and the NRP. And so the players prance about - Benny Elon and Aryeh Eldad, Uri Ariel and Zvi Hendel, Yitzhak Levy and Effie Eitam, Zevulun Orlev and Shaul Yahalom. They sway to the strains of a partiture that manages to link between the heritage of Rehavam Ze'evi and the diplomatic doctrine bequeathed by Yosef Burg and Moshe Unna. While still in motion, the right-wing troupe is moving toward the center, wrapping itself in the flag of the referendum, believing that that is all it would take to entice the wider public back into its bosom, and gloss over its still-raging internal differences of opinion over the future of the territories.

It isn't only the dance costumes and painted faces of the people on stage that are meant to confuse the members of the audience. It is also the changing makeup of the troupes. These are especially lithe dancers, who display an ability to jump high, from one side of the stage to the other. Thus, the audience beholds Uriel Reichman, who invented Shinui, linking hands with the leader of Kadima; Haim Ramon, who used to be in the same dance school as Amir Peretz, now sashaying cheek-to-cheek with Sharon; Shimon Peres, who only last month was running for leadership of Labor, showing no compunctions about sitting himself down next to the head of the rival party; and Dalia Itzik, as she crosses the lines, explaining that she has fallen in love with the platform of a party that was born only yesterday.

Only one soloist brusquely takes his place on the stage: Arkady Gaidamak.
Jennifer Loewenstein