The Israel That Is No Longer

The anniversary of the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin rang particularly hollow this year. Most of the public discourse dealt with forgetting, as if that were not a welcome natural trait. Public figures who were part of the system of incitement that led to the murder suddenly became Rabinists in retrospect. Beside them stood the representatives of his movement, who sit on his chair and betray his legacy daily, and gave a stamp of approval to those who should have been disqualified for generations. No wonder the anniversary organizing committee has acknowledged uncertainties about the way forward. Very little was invested this year in thought, in looking back and pondering what was actually destroyed there.

The three bullets liquidated, among other things, Israel's culture of disagreement. Until that night there was a hidden working assumption: Here you can say anything, because the whole is stronger and more united than the sum of its parts. We assumed that the grand Jewish tradition -- which placed the highest value on disagreements for the public good, remembered the murder of Gedaliah and feared destruction brought on by civil war -- could contain everything: the Altalena, the dismantling of the Palmach, DDT, cutting sidecurls and compensation payaments from Germany.

The epithets hurled by leftists at Menachem Begin and his thugs, and the accusations made by Begin and the Likudniks against David Ben-Gurion and his followers would today certainly be grounds for complaints and lawsuits. And some of the mutual depictions traded by Shimon Peres's people and supporters of Yitzhak Rabin, had they been voiced today, would qualify as incitement or at least be rejected as politically incorrect.

In comparison with those heated days, today's public discourse is cool, emasculated and no longer tolerates such language. There's no more tolerance for extreme statements. Many people gather today around an uncontroversial point of convergence. "Anything but murder" has become a common denominator lacking real content. In any case, all difficult but substantive ideological discussion is left out of this empty agreement. It turns out that on the night of November 4, 1995, the democratic container that held those who agree and disagree, the position and the opposition, the establishment and its alternatives, was broken. The moment there is no common container shared by everyone, even when it is difficult and unpleasant, every side goes its own way and turns inward.

The first to leave were the last to join. The Rabin government was the first to set a goal of bringing the Palestinian Israelis as equals into the whole. But they were ejected from the nationalist "Jewish democratic" atmosphere that has taken over our lives, and have joined the ultra-Orthodox in the ghettos of their lives.

Israel, mainly its Jewish part, though the characteristics are also evident in Arab society, has been divided since then into four basic groups, each with a different central and defining idea.

One group puts God and his scripture at the center of its existence. There is none other than He! This is borne out by the High Court of Justice case on segregated schooling in Immanuel and Ra'ad Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement, along with Torah laws relating to refusing certain orders.

The second group puts the land at the center of its existence. This is territorial Israeliness. In this group's view, the value of the sanctity of the land outweighs any other human, cultural or national value. In return for it, the group is prepared to relinquish even the idea of Israeli sovereignty, as long as it can stick to its sacred land. Biladi, Biladi (My Country, My Country ) in two languages.

The third group includes all those for whom the state is the supreme value. They kill and die for it, and it is more important than any other ideal. They also belong to those who offer the Israeli collective a focus of identification with a value more important than the values, rights and freedoms of the individuals, the citizens who make up our society.

The fourth group is the only one that puts the citizen and human being at the center, and is completely committed to democracy and the principles of equality and freedom for all, without distinction between Jews and Arabs.

Since then there is no longer one value system that defines and includes all Israelis who define themselves as Israeli. The concept of the Israeli whole was murdered 15 years ago.

Rabin was apparently the last whole Israeli. I didn't like him when he was alive, but I miss him after his death. He was the one who symbolized Israeliness as it wanted to be: Full of contradictions but whole, divided but bridged. Since then the divisions have only grown, and the few bridges have been destroyed. The unified kingdom has become a weakening coalition of tribes whose common future is not clear at all.