Haaretz (Editorial)
May 7, 2008 - 7:01pm

In the weeks preceding the publication of the new suspicions against the prime minister, it seemed as though Israel was progressing toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians and perhaps even with Syria. Now it is very hard to believe that a government in the process of being dismantled can carry this load on its shoulders. The country's intensive and welcome preoccupation with government corruption is determining the national mood on this Independence Day more than any ceremony and celebration.

The 60th anniversary celebrations are accompanied by a bad taste, and it is no coincidence that they are being held under a media blackout stemming from the needs of the investigation of the prime minister. A few days before the holiday, Arcadi Gaydamak bought half the Pensioners Party, and at the same time it was decided to charge former finance minister Abraham Hirchson with stealing public funds. When the police claim that removing the gag order from the investigation of the prime minister on Memorial Day will undermine the memory of the fallen, it sounds like a mixing of issues that itself corrupts the public discussion.

The present Independence Day will be celebrated by the citizens of Israel as it is every year, ignoring the investigations of corruption, because basic pride at the success of the Zionist enterprise still beats in their hearts. A random government, more corrupt or less so, is temporary and replaceable, as long as democracy maintains its vitality. In this sense Israel still serves as an example and a model for more veteran countries.
A government that is being dismantled cannot be expected to bring peace, but apparently the historical processes that are taking place in the region and in the world are stronger even than it. The isolation of Hamas, which still wants to destroy Israel, the worldwide enlistment against the Iranian nuclear program, the peace talks with the moderate wing of the Palestinian people - which wants to establish an independent state alongside Israel and to live with it in cooperation in the same conflict-ridden parcel of land - the peace signals from Syria, which have met with a positive response on the Israeli side, and also a new U.S. administration, which may provide momentum for peace with Syria that the current administration refuses to provide - all these arouse the hope that the State of Israel is stronger than its ills.

This is likely to be a year of opportunity, in light of the fact that all of the country's prime ministerial candidates, on the right and the left, and all the U.S. presidential candidates, on the right and the left, support peace with Syria at the price of withdrawal from the Golan Heights and its demilitarization. The existence of a steadily growing bloc of moderate Arab countries, the understanding that Iran and Hamas constitute a threat to them and not only to Israel, breathes new hope into the attempt to achieve peace in the region.

The aspirations of most Israelis for peace today have genuine partners in the Arab world, whose stance is no longer dependent only on the composition of some government or other in Israel. If the gauntlet is picked up on both sides, perhaps we will finally see that same new Middle East that the president of the state has praised so highly.


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