The Beilin Syndrom
MEPHISTO, the demon who bought the soul of Faust in Goethe's monumental drama, describes himself as "a part of that force which always wants the bad and always creates the good."
Yossi Beilin, who resigned this week as chairman of the Meretz party, is Mephisto's opposite: he always wants the good and all too often creates the bad.
THE "SETTLEMENT BLOCS" provide a glaring example. It was Beilin who invented this term a dozen years ago. It was included in the unofficial understanding that became known as the "Beilin-Abu-Mazen agreement".
The intention was good. Beilin believed that if most settlers were concentrated in several limited areas near the Green Line, the settlers as a whole would agree to a withdrawal from the rest of the West Bank.
The actual result was disastrous. The government and the settlers jumped at the opportunity. The permit of the "Zionist peace movement" was displayed like a Kosher certificate on the wall of a butcher shop selling pork chops. The settlement blocs were enlarged at a frantic pace and became veritable towns, like Ma'aleh Adumim, the Etzion Bloc and Modi'in Illit.
For dozens of
But Beilin's brilliant idea did not in the least diminish the
opposition of the settlers to a withdrawal from the rest of the
ONE CAN GO ON enumerating
Beilin's brilliant ideas. As in the song of the
former master comedian (and current orthodox rabbi) Uri Zohar:
"The Jewish head is inventing patents for us." In
I don't know what
exact role Beilin played in the invention of the
patents displayed at the 2000
After the 2006 elections, Beilin had another brilliant idea: to invite Avigdor Liberman to a well publicized friendly breakfast. The intention was no doubt good (even if I can't fathom what it was) but the result was calamitous: it gave Liberman a "leftist" Kosher certificate which enabled Ehud Olmert to include him in his government.
After that, Meretz announced that it would not, under any circumstances, sit in a government that included Liberman. But one cannot return Rosemary's baby to the womb of its mother. Liberman stays in the government, Meretz remains outside. Now Olmert explains to the Americans that he cannot dismantle even one settlement outpost, nor negotiate about the "core issues" of the conflict, because Liberman would then bring the government coalition crashing down.
Indeed, Beilin is very generous in dispensing Kosher certificates to extreme rightists. On the eve of one of the annual mass meetings of the "Zionist Left" in commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin, he announced that he was prepared to appear together with the leader of the most extreme Right, General Effi Eytam. Fortunately for him, nothing came of this.
There must be
some connection between these ideas and his stand at critical junctures. For
example: his support for Ariel
determined support of Beilin for the Second
IN THE other pan
of the scales lie two of Beilin's major positive
contributions: to the
His input to
These two faults have buried the agreement. The negotiations for a permanent peace agreement, which were to be concluded in 1999, did not even start. The settlements were being enlarged rapidly while everybody was talking about peace.
This did not
That need not
have been the end of the initiative. There could have been a sustained campaign
THE ERROR was
clear from the first moment: there is a basic contradiction between being a
party chairman and being the Prophet of
A smart person like Beilin should have understood that. But I suspect that he has two souls struggling for mastery: the soul of an ideas-man and the soul of a party operative. He is not satisfied with being only one.
The mistake carried a high price. This week, Beilin was compelled to announce his resignation from the Meretz chairmanship.
There is something mysterious in the character of this party: it devours its leaders, one after another. First its founding mother, Shulamit Aloni, was practically kicked out. The man who did this, Yossi Sarid, was compelled to resign in his turn, when the party shrank from 12 to 6 Knesset seats, turning from a medium into a small party. After the last elections, under Beilin, it was down to 5.
leadership, the Meretz faction was a strange bird:
neither a real opposition party nor a member of the coalition. Beilin grew up in the establishment, and even when he is
formally in opposition he thinks and acts like a member of the establishment.
Not only did Meretz, under his leadership, support
He says that he
believes that Olmert sincerely wants peace. He quotes
with approval the sayings of the New Olmert: "My
father was wrong and Ben-Gurion was right" (Olmert's
father was an Irgun stalwart), and also "
When a party kicks its leader out, it is always a sad event. But this is not the first time it has happened to Beilin, and that invites some serious questions.
He grew up from early youth in the Labor Party and was one of the promising foster-children of Shimon Peres. As Deputy Foreign Minister he had the opportunity to give full scope to his untiring creativity. But then Ehud Barak came to power, with his uncanny ability to put the wrong person in the wrong position. Beilin was appointed Minister of Justice, a job that paralyzed his special talents.
On the eve of the next elections, the Labor Party banished Beilin to a hopeless place on its election list. In fury and frustration, he left the party, slammed the door behind him and joined Meretz. Now he has been practically pushed out of there.
Unlike Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, Beilin has no intention of "going home". His fertile brain is already hatching new plans. In recent interviews he prophesies a fundamental change in the political landscape and the creation of a new political force including members from Kadima, Labor and Meretz. Presumably he imagines that this party would be headed by Olmert, and that Beilin would play a central role. It would be fighting against Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
An interesting idea, but its chances are close to nil.
BEILIN'S PROBLEMS go beyond his personal story. They symbolize the tragedy of the camp which calls itself the "Zionist Left". Probably the appellation itself already contains the problem.
This camp was
born a hundred years ago, and it seems that it never once engaged in real
self-criticism. In his last interview, Beilin uses
all the terminology of the Zionist establishment. Like everybody else he calls
the Palestinian fighters in the
With such views, the Zionist peace camp cannot become a political fighting force, engage in a real opposition struggle, bring about change in the country. And that is more than just one of Yossi Beilin's personal problems.