Why Does the Arab World Long for Labor to Win?
The Arab world dreams of the day Herzog and Livni might be at the helm of the Jewish state.
By Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Honest disclosure I: I have been acquainted with the Herzog family for decades, ever since I was a child, and at various points in my life I crossed paths with all three Herzog brothers, Brigadier (Res.) Joel, Michael and MK Yitzchak. I have always held this aristocratic family in great esteem for their generosity, deportment, and erudition, as sons of Israel's late sixth president Chaim Herzog and grandchildren of the late Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog. Ambassador Abba Eban, a significant political and cultural figure on his own, was their uncle. An aristocratic family in the deepest sense of the word.
Honest disclosure II: During the second half of the nineties, once I had finished my army service, I was active in the "Paths to Peace" organization, the younger and religious brother of "Peace Now". I gave peace a chance the European way, but our Arab neighbors disappointed us.
Honest disclosure III: At various times, I have suggested a Middle East peace plan for us and our neighbors, "The Eight Palestinian Emirates Plan". I am openly against the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, one that will without doubt turn into another Hamastan and lead inevitably to the next war.
Honest disclosure IV: I openly support the Jewish Home party's list.
Let us start with the head of the Labor party, Yitzchak Herzog:
Years of spent studying Arab discourse, media and culture - in the original Arabic - have led me to the incontrovertible conclusion that most of the Arab population hopes the day will come when Herzog is prime minister of Israel, for that day - at least according to the viewpoint of most Arabs - is the beginning of the end of the state of Israel .The reason is simple: Herzog is seen as a person of weak character, unimpressive and spineless. He did not serve as a combat officer and was, instead, an officer in my unit, 8200, which is made up of brilliant nerds with the obligatory round-framed eyeglasses.
Herzog's gentle way of speaking and the unconfrontational terminology he uses, those that make him attractive to Israelis who want to think like Europeans and Americans, have convinced the Arab world that Herzog is the only way to soften Israel enough to step all over it and turn it into a dishrag that can be wrung into oblivion.
The Middle East's agenda is set by stereotypes and images, and the image Herzog projects is so weak that any threats Israel might pronounce would be met with derision. The distance from that derision to all-out war is a short one.
In the Middle East, anyone who proclaims non-stop that he wants peace, projects the image of someone who is afraid of war because he is weak, thereby awakening the militaristic adrenaline glands of his neighbors, who then resemble nothing so much as eagles and vultures hovering over a dying cow.
And the opposite is just as true: anyone who radiates power, strength, threat and danger enjoys comparative tranquillity because the bullies leave him alone. This is the reason the Arabs hated and respected Ariel Sharon and Moshe Dayan – they were afraid of them. Sadat made peace with Israel because he could not defeat the Jewish state despite the surprise factor he had in opening the Yom Kippur War and his early success in crossing the Suez Canal. Hussein also made peace with Israel, hoping it would use its power to help him face the Baath party of Syria and Iraq. Arafat agreed to ahudabiyyah - that is, a temporary "peace" for as long as the enemy is too strong to defeat – after the failure of the first intifada.
Yitzchak Herzog at the helm of the government is the sweetest dream the Arab world can imagine, because it is proof that Israeli society is tired, exhausted, lacking the motivation to protect the country and ready to pay any price for a paper that has the word "peace" written on it. Herzog at the helm of the government will be subject to pressures from the Arab world – and from Obama's White House - because he creates the impression that "this time it will work", or shall I say, "Yes, we can".
The pressures he will undergo will be much greater than those exerted on Netanyahu, because the White House and the Arab world will sense that his days as Prime Minister are numbered and therefore, they must make every effort to squeeze as much out of him as they can for the short period that Israelis will let him function before waking up to realize the imminent catastrophe and removing him from his seat as they did to Ehud Barak when he gave in to Arafat.
Yitzchak Herzog may bring about harmonious relations with the White House and perhaps even with the angst-consumed leaders of Europe, but he will bring a war of blood, fire and tears to the area called the Middle East where only those who are truly powerful, threatening and determined to deter their enemies survive.
Let us continue with MK Tzipi Livni, Herzog's rotation partner in what the two self-titled "The Zionist Camp":
Tzipi is the other aspect of the sweet dreams of the Arab world, a woman born and raised in a courageous Revisionist family, a home filled with healthy and strong Zionist principles. She began her political career in the Likud, but became more and more spineless, deteriorating from party to party, until she joined up with the other leading invertebrate, Yitzchak Herzog.
To the Arab world, Livni symbolizes and represents the dispirited and weary Israeli, those who have had enough of the struggle for survival and are willing to offer their necks to the slaughterer hoping that he will butcher them gently if they speak politely.
The internet tells us that in the eighties, Livni was actually a Mossad agent in Europe, and several Arab websites tell of the "special services" she did for the state of Israel.These services are understood in the West as undercover and secret, but in the Middle East the expression is interpreted in a totally different fashion. We can imagine how they will react on the web in the Arab world and what our image will be if she becomes prime minister.
However, the problem with Tzipi Livni is not just about her image, because in her case, our neighbors have proof that Livni hasn't the foggiest idea of how to navigate the complex, thorny paths of the Middle East: she was Foreign Minister during the Second Lebanon War, and was the Israeli architect of Security Council Resolution 1701 that allowed the Hezbollah – already clear in the phrasing she espoused – to renew and its rocket arsenal. I would expect someone with a law degree to comprehend the built-in failure in the way the resolution was phrased, but Tzipi Livni did not even reach this minimal legal test. Is there anyone in his right mind who would hire her to prepare a contract for renting out his apartment?
What is strange is that instead of being ashamed and keeping her mouth shut, Livni even defended Resolution 1701 in public, strangely calling it a resolution that "created change in southern Lebanon".
In sum: Only in Israel do the spineless have the nerve to ask the public for another chance to sit for the Middle East exam which they are sure to fail once again. Only in Israel does the public's collective memory go only as far back as the last television debate, the slogan heard yesterday and the latest spin a candidate spread this morning at the advice of his media consultants because it is popular and easy to recall.
Not one of the soul weary people – those who talk non-stop about "peace" – can deal in a suitable manner with the cruel and difficult cultural environment in our neighborhood, one which, in the best case, will kick him in the rear as a warning before plunging a dagger into his neck.
The Herzog-Livni duo is the last thing I would recommend to lead the state of Israel, as long as we want to survive in the "New Middle East" – not the Shimon Peres fantasy world of that name, but the one where what is new is "Islamic State". Perhaps, in the far-off future, when and if the surrounding cultural atmosphere turns into something like America or what it was once in Europe, we will be able to consider these two soul weary people as leaders of Israel.
However, while the Middle East looks the way it does and functions the way it does at present, there is no choice except to leave them nailed to their seats in the opposition consisting of other spineless "round eyeglasses" so they can raise shrill voices to criticize the nation's leaders, while those leaders radiate power, strength and believable threats.
This is the bitter reality in which we attempt to survive. I am not the one who created it, and I bear no guilt for the situation we are in. I am just the messenger who is charged with explaining to my readers what not everyone understands about the culture in our neighborhood. It is a culture that only provides quiet and tranquility to the leader who succeeds in persuading his neighbors that he is invincible and that they had better leave him in peace for their own good.
This is an ongoing mission, especially since every once in a while some "brilliant" figures appear, claiming to have just patented their invention of the wheel and found the way to be accepted by our neighbors as a legitimate and welcome entity.
My advice? Learn Arabic.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.
Written in Hebrew for Arutz Sheva, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky.