Treat us like Jews!
Peretz: The time has come to treat settlers like human beings
My first (and obvious) reaction to the headline was that this represented a pathetic attempt at electioneering - with Peretz and the Labor party trying to reach out to a new segment of the voting public to boost Labor's numbers in the upcoming elections.
Yet, even so, I was hopeful.
It's not everyday (during elections or otherwise) that you have a left-wing party reaching out to the "settlers". Generally speaking, as is the case with Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party, votes are won in Israel by demonizing and abusing this segment of the public (think Amona).
As such, I decided to give Amir Peretz the benefit of the doubt, and I took a closer look at what he had to say:
Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz told settlers on Sunday that he would act for generous compensation and support by the state in exchange for voluntary evacuation of West Bank settlements...
"The time has come to treat settlers as human beings. They are the salt of the earth. We must build new towns and neighborhoods for them," Peretz said. "It's even worth giving the evacuees double the compensation, to prevent a confrontation and because it is an investment that pays itself off," he said.
There you have it.
In Amir Peretz's world, and sadly for many others here in Israel (particularly the country's leadership and elite), nothing is sacred, nothing is worth fighting for, nothing is worth sacrificing for and nothing is worth dying for. Everybody has a price. Faith, ideology, and a life lived based on belief and ideals are all admirable, but at the end of the day, those are also for sale - even if it requires paying a hefty sum (in this case, double the amount spent by the government on those expelled from Gush Katif).
If Amir Peretz truly wanted to treat the "settlers" with respect, why not talk to them as Jews, and not as human beings? Why not try to understand where they are coming from - of the centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish People and Jewish destiny? Why not try to understand the ideals, the vision and beliefs of those who are living through Judea and Samaria (and formerly Gaza) and why they (along with countless Jews throughout the ages) have been willing to sacrifice so much in order to live by those ideals?
Instead of talking to the "settlers" as human beings, and investing billions of NIS in expelling them from their homes (whether through force or coercion), why not treat these "settlers" as Jews, and invest that money into bridging the gaps that exist between the Jews of Judea & Samaria and those elements of Israeli society whom the Labor party represents - and thus work towards strengthening Israel as a Jewish State, as opposed to the State of Israel merely being a refuge of human beings?
We find the answer to these questions in a related article in the Jerusalem Post, through an encounter between one of the "settlers" and Peretz:
"It was your party's spirit that founded the settler movement," accused Hadera. "You are talking about this as if it was in the past and the decision has been made that we would leave. I don't want to leave, she said.
"The new spirit of my party is one of peace," responded Peretz. "The spirit of the settler movement and the spirit of peace are not on the same path. It is the spirit of peace that will direct our future, he said.
Amir Peretz's future is driven by his quest to achieve peace. Whether peace will come through the Oslo Accords, the Road Map, the Geneva Initiative or "Disengagement" matters little to Peretz. The fact that the road to (a false) peace for Peretz is paved with Jewish blood and tears is of little consequence, so long as at the end of the day we can live in peace, and exist as a normal people - as a nation like all others.
Peretz, however, is right about two things:
1st, that the "spirit of the settler movement", namely the recognition that the future of the Jewish People and State revolve around our faithfulness to the Land of Israel, People of Israel and Torah (Heritage) of Israel stands in direct contrast to Amir Peretz's "spirit of peace" that is based on retreat, appeasement and the abandonment of the Jewish Heritage and Homeland.
Peretz's "spirit of peace" is a spirit that is based on the desire to run from Jewish destiny and history; a desire to no longer live our lives as Jews and for the State of Israel to no longer view itself as a Jewish State (with all of the obligations and responsibilities that go along with that); a desire to undergo a conversion from Judaism to Secular Humanism, and to replace the Jewish State of Israel with a State of Israel that exists as a nation like all others; a nation made up of people who believe in nothing and stand for nothing short of the present, the temporary and the fleeting (Read: Peace Now) - a nation made up of individuals who all have a price.
2nd, that the future of the State of Israel hangs in the balance of which path - which spirit - we decide to follow.
Will we follow the "sprit of the settler movement" or the "spirit of peace"?
Amir Peretz has made his decision. Have you made yours?