I’ve been accused of verbosity. When anyone asks me for writing advice (which is seldom) I always say: “Read Hemingway. Write like that.” But my own stuff never seems to come out like Hemingway, no matter how hard I try; I’ve never mastered the art of the sound-bite, or its written equivalent. (OK, I can write short sentences when I really try; but I just can’t keep the semicolons, dashes, and parentheses from creeping in while I’m not watching. See?) This time, though, I actually have some shortish things to say.
This next week – like so many weeks in our happy little corner of the world – promises to be an interesting one. Just in the next couple of days, three things are scheduled to happen (or to fail to happen): things that I think are rather significant in their different ways. It so happens that I’ve previously written about all three.
- On Sunday, the government is expected to propose an amendment to the Compensation for Victims of Hostile Acts Law – the law that provides compensation to Israelis killed in wars and in terror attacks. In the aftermath of the two recent “Jewish” terror attacks – and in particular after the Shfaram attack, in which the victims were Israeli Arabs – we discovered that this law doesn’t take into account the possibility that terrorism against Israelis might be carried out by individuals or organizations that don’t consider themselves enemies of the State of Israel. The new version of the law will reportedly include incidents like the Shfaram attack as “hostile acts” for which compensation will be paid. This change will be most welcome – and this is one of the few times when I can’t find anything bad to say about the way our government has handled something. Not only will this change fix an obvious injustice; it will also prevent serious damage to Israel’s stature as an opponent of terrorism worldwide.
- On Monday, the Likud Central Committee is scheduled to vote on the date of primaries to select the party’s candidates in the next election. This vote has been turned into something of a vote of confidence in Ariel Sharon, with former Finance Minister (and former Prime Minister) Binyamin Netanyahu leading the charge against Sharon. This vote worries me. It worries me not because I’m afraid Sharon may lose, but because I’m afraid the Central Committee may knuckle under and he may win – and because I favor the policy path he has chosen, I believe it’s best for Israel if the Likud splits up. Sadly, the Likud is all too likely to choose power over principle, and thus stay with Ariel Sharon as their leader rather than follow Netanyahu onto the Opposition benches; the annoying part is that many of Sharon’s opponents in the Likud can pretty much be counted on to rediscover their principles after the elections, and make it very difficult for him to get anything done. Let’s all send thoughts of strength, then, to the leaders of the Likud: Stand up for your ideology, keep your powder dry, and devil take the hindmost! Kick the big guy out (so I can vote for him without voting for you)!
- Hamas just managed to kill nineteen Palestinians, including a number of their own “activists”, at a Gaza rally; dozens more were wounded. Hamas blamed Israel for the explosion, but the Palestinian Authority has held Hamas itself responsible. Israel – which normally takes credit for airborne attacks – has denied any involvement in this incident, and the denial has the ring of truth: Israel has never attacked a rally in this way, and had no particular reason to carry out a spectacular attack against Hamas at that time.
This incident prompts two observations: First, it would appear that I was wrong when I designated Monday, 26 September, as the last day of the “al-Aqsa Intifada”. I did leave myself a little wiggle room for “unforeseen events”; they happened, and I hadn’t foreseen them. This is the problem with being considered (even if only by yourself and close friends) an “expert” on anything: you get something more or less right about the recent past, and it gets awfully hard to resist predicting the future. The second “Intifada” will be with us, it appears, for a while longer; and the people planning the “Third Intifada” will just have to wait their turn.
The second observation is about Hamas itself: Hamas has gained much of its popularity because of its image as the clean, honest, effective organization that actually cared about the well-being of ordinary Palestinians. (I’m not saying that Hamas really does care; but medical clinics and nursery schools go a long way in a society whose official apparatus fails to provide these services, while its leaders live in mansions.) Will incidents like this one, in which Hamas callously disregarded safety precautions, killed dozens of innocents, and then refused to take responsibility for its negligence, weaken Hamas’ appeal to the Palestinian public? I really have no idea; but it seems likely to me that Hamas’ halo will, sooner or later, start looking tarnished. It would be nice, of course, if this happened before Hamas became the ruling party of Palestine; but given my record as a prophet – a record that would have had me stoned to death a few short millennia ago – I won’t venture a prediction.