Gideon Levy
Haaretz (Opinion)
June 25, 2010 - 12:00am

At least one Israeli - other than Shalom Hanoch whose signature is affixed to the title of this article (taken from his song "Waiting for the Messiah" ) - has reached the conclusion that Israeli public opinion is dumb. That person is the prime minister, and he is correct.

If Benjamin Netanyahu believes he can tell Israelis for years that the blockade of the Gaza Strip is a security need, an Israeli interest, and then on one ordinary day he can simply claim the exact, but the exact, opposite - that lifting the blockade is in Israel's interest, a means of weakening Hamas and a recipe for securing the release of Gilad Shalit - then he clearly thinks the public is dumb. (Even if his bureau now contends he had spoken out against the blockade, he of course never did a thing to lift it. )

If the Israeli public accepts all of Netanyahu's initial claims with alarming apathy and blind obedience and then hastens to automatically adopt the exact opposite, then the prime minister is correct in his conclusion. And if the public is not even insulted by its prime minister's humiliating, disparaging and arrogant treatment of it, then indeed this is "an accident for the country" as the unfortunate policeman says to Artzieli the son, in the abovementioned song.

Take a look at what one rickety Turkish ship can do. A partial suspension of the blockade on Gaza - partial, because the gates remain closed to exports and one and a half million people continue to be imprisoned - in one fell swoop revealed to us a series of depressing conclusions about ourselves. The most depressing of all is that there is no public opinion and there is no government in Israel; it is a state in receivership whose political decisions are taken from the outside.

Starting with the speech at Bar-Ilan University, and continuing on to the freezing of construction in the territories, the establishment of a committee of inquiry into the flotilla incident (and even its composition ), up to the easing of the blockade - all of these are imported decisions, made in America. They are not blue and white. Even the fate of King's Garden (Al-Bustan ) in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem will be decided in the U.S. State Department.

Therefore those who complain about people who turn to parties abroad and try to shake Israel up via international elements, who are labeled as "traitors," would do well to remember that there is no where else to turn - Israel proves by its very own deeds that its fate will be decided from outside its borders.

Israel has also proven once again this week that "only by force" is its only language. The blockade should have been lifted a long time ago and its lifting could have been presented as a daring Israeli initiative, as a humanitarian response to the needs of Gazans, as a positive declaration of intentions. In this way, it would also have been possible to gain some credit among world and Palestinian public opinion.

But no, we will not ease the blockade unless they force us to do so. And when the United States forced our hand, once again our decision could be seen as nothing else but an embarrassing Israeli capitulation. So here we transmit the same message yet again, both to our friends and to our enemies: Only by force. Send yet another semi-violent flotilla, and the alleviation of the sanctions will be extended even further. As chilling as it may sound, even just a few Qassam rockets could help us remember Gaza's existence.

Above all: The day the president of the United States decides to put an end to the Israeli occupation, the occupation will cease.

The public also accepts without question that it has a prime minister who never ever tells it the truth. We've never had a prime minister like Netanyahu, who never reveals what he's thinking.

How does he really feel about the blockade? What he told us yesterday? What he is saying today? That is was not actually essential? That it was helpful? That it was harmful? Nor is anyone demanding of him that he express anything other than the spin intended to placate Washington.

The public is dumb, forgive me for the expression, because it accepts everything. Blockade? Let there be a blockade. No blockade? So there won't be one. Until yesterday, we were told there was no blockade, today they tell the public that the blockade has been lifted - anything goes. Anything goes in a society that has sunk to the depths of apathy, as if it were in a coma.

Could it be worse? Certainly. There is still a generation here that remembers other periods in which there was leadership and an opposition and clear alternatives; not like today. There were days when ideological arguments took place, not like today; days when civilian protests were staged, not like today. The next generation will not know any of that. For a generation fed by newspapers on trains and stupefying television, demanding that the leaders lead and the politicians speak the truth will soon sound like something out of musty history books.

But perhaps there is nothing bad without good. Particularly as the trucks filled with Israeli goods pass through the crossing points, perhaps the blockade of our thoughts - which we brought upon ourselves - will also open up. Having lost hope thanks to Netanyahu's deceit and trickery, perhaps we will finally start to ask: Where to? And why?


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