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 Day 19

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Even the Taxi Drivers Say It "Likud Has Failed"

The Aim is Victory

by URI AVNERY

It seems that a new wind is blowing in the country.

This week I flew to Europe. On the way to the Airport, the taxi-driver told me: That’s it, there is no hope left. We shall never have peace with the Palestinians. There is no one to talk with. No compromise is possible. The war will go on and on. Therefore he will vote for Sharon.

I remarked that if this is so, his grandchildren would certainly leave the country. “What grandchildren,” he replied with sorrow, mingled with pride, “My son is an architect in Los Angeles!”

I returned after five days. The taxi driver who took me home from the airport surprised me. “All my life I have voted Likud,” he said, “But the Likud has failed. There is no difference between Sharon and Netanyahu. They have not brought security but look how the economy has gone to pieces. This time I shall vote for Mitzna.”

What has happened during these five days? One thing: Amram Mitzna has won the primary election in the Labor Party.

This, by itself, is a stunning feat in every respect. An introvert “Yekke” (as German Jews are condescendingly called) without charisma has defeated an &qu ot;authentic”, back-slapping Iraqi. A dove has beaten a hawk. A political newcomer, who has announced that he is ready to talk with Arafat, has routed the Defense Minister, who has tried to destroy the Palestinian Authority.

That is a shining victory of Mitzna’s. But it is much more. It is a symptom of mysterious happenings in the depths of the national consciousness.

During the last two years, while the cycle of atrocities got wider and wider, I was often asked how I managed to remain optimistic, while everybody around lost all hope. I answered that one day, in a week or in five years, the public will wake up in the morning and exclaim: “Enough! This can’t go on! A solution must be found!”

“What good will that do?” the doom-sayers would say, “There is no politician around who could lead the country towards peace.”

“The demand will create the offer,” I answered, “When there is a demand for such a leader, he will appear from somewhere.”

I think that this forecast is beginning to be realized. The currents beneath the surface of public consciousness are changing. The IDF conquers, occupies, kills, “destroys the terror infrastructure”, and the Palestinian attacks do not stop for a moment. The regular declarations of Sharon and Mofaz start to sound like self-parody. For the first time, “simple” people realize that there is a close relationship between the intifada, the economic crisis and the social emergency.

That does not cause the public to love the Palestinians or to get enamored with peace. Not at all. But it causes it to look for a leader with vision, who will try sincerely to break out of the bloody cycle and find a solution. The settlers are “out”, compromise is “in”. Amram Mitzna has appeared at the right place, at the right time, with the right message.

Now the slogan must be: Full Steam Ahead!

Some cautious peace activists say that we should not ask for too much. One has to look at the public opinion polls. Mitzna cannot beat Sharon. But he can overhaul the Labor Party in opposition, and that is also important.

This is a mistake. The polls photograph the situation on the ground. They do not see what’s happening underneath. There, new currents are flowing. Therefore, the aim must be: victory.

True, a victory of Mitzna over the Sharonyahu looks like a miracle. But that’s how a victory of Mitzna over Ben-Eliezer looked a month ago. It will be difficult, very difficult. But it is possible. All efforts must be made to achieve it.

According to all the polls, the gap between the two big blocs, the right and the left, is quite small even now, before the public has grasped the full impact of what happened in the Labor Party. Something like 65 against 55. Which means that it is enough to capture five-six seats in the Knesset in order to achieve an enormous change.

There is no alternative to victory. For the future of Israel, the saving of human lives and the reconstruction of the state, the difference between Mitzna and Sharon is colossal.

If the hour has not yet struck, and the Likud wins after all, the struggle must not be stopped for a moment. If Sharon or Netanyahu win, they will head a narrow, divided and fragile coalition, unable to solve any problems. It will be torn between the need to please Bush and the need to appease the extreme right wing of Lieberman-Eytam. Since things under their leadership will go on deteriorating, it can be brought down within a year and then the big reversal must be effected.

Therefore, any thought about an effort to set up a “national unity” government after the election is dangerous. No doubt Sharon will offer Labor seductive terms for joining. In the language of the Mafia: “An offer they can’t refuse.” But Sharon is Sharon and will never change. In order to remain true to himself, Mitzna will have to refuse. Even if his job-hungry and unprincipled colleagues urge him to accept.

The aim must be: a total reversal, all along the front and in every area. Nothing less will suffice.

True, Amram Mitzna may disappoint us. Let’s not forget the enthusiasm with which we welcomed Ehud Barak, who led to disaster. He may break on the way. That can also happen, and we must be ready for it. But it is reasonable to expect the opposite. A person can grow in the job and fulfill the mission history has placed on him.

At this moment, ecce homo.

URI AVNERY has closely followed the career of Sharon for four decades. Over the years, he has written three extensive biographical essays about him, two (1973, 1981) with his cooperation. Avnery is featured in the new book, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent.