Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In doing politics one encounters two very different kinds of political animals. There are those who view politics as a form of business: the object is to get the best possible deal. And there are those who view politics as a form of therapy: the object is to draw attention to one's purity of ideology and commitment.

The business types sometimes lose sight of exactly what it is that they're trying to maximize in all the deal-making. When all else is forgotten, the default is to maximize one's own glory. And the ideologues sometimes forget quite how much damage they do to their own cause by not knowing when it's time to cut a deal.

Most politicians are actually at their best precisely when they act against type. For example, Michi Ratzon is a Likud MK of the business variety, who took a principled stand against Sharon and, for a fleeting moment, actually sounded like a statesman. Uzi Landau, another Likud MK but of the ideologue variety, was trailing badly in the race to head the party and decided to cut a deal with Bibi Netanyahu. A number of good friends of mine who were very active in his campaign were devastated. But the truth is that it was a brief transcendent moment for Landau in which he actually sounded like a good politician.

Here ends the symmetry. The people I hang with are almost uniformly ideologues. This is partly because of the places I hang and partly because most people who don't actually have to get anything done have the luxury of ideological purity. (Conversely, there are those types who choose politics as a career from a young age -- think Ehud Olmert or Ofer Penis-Putz -- who regard principles as a liability.) Again and again, I run into people whose sole political objective is to shrei gevald, regardless of the price. Examples abound. Today, I offer one topical example. More will follow.

The fence/wall that is going up mostly along the green line has reached my little town (MLT). The whole fence is one giant useless populist boondoggle that serves the single purpose of delineating a border in all the wrong places. This is not the place to explain everything that's wrong with it. The question is what should be done about it. Given the fact that about a million miles of fence have already been built and a trillion dollars have already been invested in it, you've got to figure that stopping it cold in its tracks is a long shot.

So Shaul Goldstein, the "mayor" of Gush Etzion, has invested a good deal of time lobbying the makhers to at least revise the route of the fence in those places where it is most damaging. For this he has been attacked by purists, who prefer: i. "issuing a clear statement against the very idea of a fence and winning public support" (this from a guy who brought down Bibi for being too soft, so that we got Barak instead; he remains convinced that the masses are behind him) and ii. "sabotaging the bulldozers and lying down in front of the tractors".

To be sure, there are circumstances in which I myself would lie down in front of the tractors. But the first line of defense has always got to be to try to cut the best deal possible because statements and sabotage don't ever bring results; they are purely therapeutic measures. Unfortunately, though, some ideologues need to first and foremost vilify anybody who actually tries to get something done. They view a deal as the least satisfying possible outcome since it offers neither the ecstasy of victory nor the kind of self-righteous soul-cleansing catharsis that only a truly unambiguous screwing over can elicit.

Tomorrow (bli neder) I'll discuss an astounding tale of misplaced priorities in Hevron.


Blogger westbankmama said...

I hear you - but it's more complicated than that.

There is a desparate need for a public discussion about our several broken political system - basic stuff like checks and balances, transparency, and truly representative politics.

These are ostensibly "ideological" things - but they rein in and direct the deal making. So they are not just "nice to have".

Yet talking about them brands you an "ideologue" in many mittel-Israeli eyes - especially if you're "a settler".

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Penis-Putz. I Love It!

1:29 PM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Congratulations...I always wanted to write Ofer Pines' name that way, but I never had the guts!!

Of course, if you think the "ideologues" are bad and impractical, then no Jewish state would have ever been built, no yishum in YESHA would have ever arosen, etc. because all the "pragmatists" always said it can't be done. It is the ideologues who set the agenda. I recall 15 years ago reading in Ha'aretz commetators saying "actually, if you talk to Likud Knesset Members privately, they will all tell you that all YESHA will be given up, but if they want to keep their seats, they have to pretend that they oppose this". I thought this was too cynical at the time, but it turns out that it is true, they were just waiting for some bully like Sharon to come along and to free them from the "ideologues". But, on the other hand, there was another 15 years to build things and a lot was accomplished in spite of this weakness in the political ranks. The question is, now that all the cards are out on the table, will we who support YESHA fold up like the leadership and residents in Gush Katif did, or will some new spirit of resistance (peaceful, but firm) arise?

3:28 PM  
Blogger treppenwitz said...

Thanks Ben... I've been tossing and turning at night trying to figure out why I can't sleep... and you perfectly defined both the rock and the hard place. I agree that the fence is not going to be abandoned just because a bunch of settler rabble-rowsers make a fuss. On the other hand, I want to scream and throw things when |I hear people saying that it would be better if Gush Etzion were left outside the fence altogether! I don't care what anyone says... I believe with all my heart that, with few exceptions, the fence will be the defacto border between two states in the future. Why would I want to ensure my house ends up in the wrong state? I'm all for a deal that will keep most or all of the gush inside the fence (and not in separate 'cantons')... but I don't know if Shaul Goldstein has the juice to make that happen.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Shitz" quote from A7 account of ND meeting that should wake y'all up:

“Those behind the fence will be offered compensation and expelled from their homes down the road – that’s the plan,” Alon Shvut resident Shimon Yitzchak said. “But those of you who think you are improving the status of Gush Etzion and entering the consensus by agreeing to this fence are in for a surprise. We won’t even be evacuated or be offered compensation – we will just watch the value of our homes plummet and our quality of life melt away as we wait for hours at the new border crossings and sit in traffic while some suspicious bag of garbage is removed from the only road out of Gush Etzion.”

“And you know what?" concluded Yitzchak. "In my opinion, people who would agree to sell out their brothers living in Tekoa and Kiryat Arba, who are currently due to be fenced out, would deserve whatever they get. This is the second stage of the expulsion and just as the expulsion from Gush Katif was misnamed a ‘disengagement,’ this expulsion hides behind the misnamed ‘security fence.’”

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also, Shaul agreed with the Kfar Etzion folks about when a struggle would be launched and violated the agreements a la Kfar Maimon

That is a problem

5:32 PM  

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