When Ehud Olmert was a teenage leader of the right-wing Betar youth movement in the 1950s, he would mark May Day by tearing down the red flag that hung over the trade union building in his northern village of Binyamina. For Olmert and his friends, that flag symbolized what they referred to as "the Vichy government" of Labor Zionism, which had betrayed the land of Israel by twice accepting its partition—first in 1923, when the British created Transjordan, and then in 1947, when the Untied Nations divided what was left of historic Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Jerusalem, Israel--The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had planned on offering the usual complaints when he visited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week. There was the stalled road map, Israel's security fence, and the recently announced expansion of West Bank settlements close to the Green Line. But, before he arrived in Jerusalem, something happened that changed Lavrov's agenda: the massacre of Russian children by Chechen Islamist terrorists.
Some two million Israeli homes recently received in the mail the 47-page text of the Geneva Accord, which claims to be the comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Accord, a European-funded effort secretly negotiated by Palestinian officials and Israeli public figures for two years--and signed in a symbolic, lavish ceremony in Geneva this week--states that Israel will withdraw to the 1967 borders, a Palestinian state will emerge with its capital in Jerusalem, and the two peoples will recognize each other's right to statehood and resolve the refugee issue.
During the Oslo peace process, Natan Sharansky, the Soviet dissident turned politician, was a lone, even eccentric, voice on the Israeli right. Where others on the right condemned Oslo for betraying historic claims or vital security needs, Sharansky attacked it for betraying democracy. By imposing dictatorship on the Palestinians, he argued, Israel was repeating the mistake made by Western democracies that sought stability by accommodating rather than challenging communist regimes.
Jerusalem, Israel "The world hates us and always will," a neighbor said to me on the stairs before wishing me a good day. "What more do you need than the Holocaust?" He is Sephardi, without familial memory of Europe; but the bitter, new mood of besieged Israel has penetrated everywhere.
The bearded Hezbollah man, arms folded and half-smiling, stood alone at the border fence on his daily vigil, just across from the Israeli army outpost called Tziporen. Beside him was a large metal sign imprinted with photographs of dead Israeli and South Lebanese Army soldiers--including a severed head--and the taunt in Hebrew, "Sharon, don't forget your soldiers are still in Lebanon," a reference to three Israeli soldiers kidnapped in the fall of 2000, whom the army believes didn't survive. I moved toward the fence to get a closer view but was stopped by an Israeli officer.
Terrorism is the ultimate anti-Zionist weapon. It subverts Israel's promise of normalcy for the Jews. One reason Israelis have learned to live with the recurring image of parents burying their soldier sons is that the death of young people in uniform isn't a violation of what humanity considers normal.
On the surface, the similarities between the late extremist rabbi, Meir Kahane, and Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, Israel's tourism minister and head of the far-right Moledet (Homeland) party, are obvious. Both men advocated the abhorrent "transfer" of Palestinians to neighboring Arab countries; both headed radical, peripheral political movements. Both were murdered by Arab terrorists, Kahane eleven years ago in November, and Ze'evi this week. But Israeli reactions to the two murders were drastically different.
At 9 a.m. on September 11, I was sitting in a midtown Manhattan restaurant, reading an Israeli newspaper and feeling very far from home. Almost the entire news section focused on the suicide bombing at the train station in the northern town of Nahariya two days before, claiming three lives and wounding nearly 100. My 16-year-old daughter, who'd spent the weekend with a friend near the Lebanon border, had been at the Nahariya station and had boarded a train for Tel Aviv just before the suicide bombing; her friend's father, who'd dropped her off at the station, was lightly wounded.
In the lobby of Likud headquarters hangs a plaque with a quotation from Samson, a novel written by the party's mentor, the late Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky: "Tell them three things in my name, not two: Gather iron, anoint a king, and learn to laugh." For many years Ariel Sharon—the iron-willed general and Likud hard-liner—seemed faithful only to Jabotinsky's first two imperatives. He appeared at once aggrieved and combative; even his massive physical presence seemed provocative. Yet, at age 72, the public Sharon has learned to relax and even to laugh.