SINCE THE beginning of the conflict, the extremists of both sides have always played into each other's hands. The cooperation between them was always much more effective than the ties between the corresponding peace activists.
"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" asked the prophet Amos (3:3). Well, seems they can.
This was proved again this week.
AT THE beginning of the week, Binyamin Netanyahu was desperately looking for a way out of an escalating internal crisis. The social protest movement was gathering momentum and posing a growing danger to his government.
The struggle was going on, but the protest had already made a huge difference. The whole content of the public discourse had changed beyond recognition.
Social ideas were taking over, pushing aside the hackneyed talk about "security." TV talk show panels, previously full of used generals, were now packed with social workers and professors of economics. One of the consequences was that women were also much more prominent.
And then it happened. A small extremist Islamist group in the Gaza Strip sent a detachment into the Egyptian Sinai desert, from where it easily crossed the undefended Israeli border and created havoc. Several fighters (or terrorists, depends who is talking) succeeded in killing eight Israeli soldiers and civilians, before some of them were killed. Another four of their comrades were killed on the Egyptian side of the border. The aim seems to have been to capture another Israeli soldier, to strengthen the case for a prisoner exchange on their terms.
In a jiffy, the economics professors vanished from the TV screens, and their place was taken by the old gang of ex's -- ex-generals, ex-secret-service chiefs, ex-policemen, all male, of course, accompanied by their entourage of obsequious military correspondents and far-right politicians.
With a sigh of relief, Netanyahu returned to his usual stance. Here he was, surrounded by generals, the he-man, the resolute fighter, the Defender of Israel.
IT WAS, for him and his government, an incredible stroke of luck.
It can be compared to what happened in 1982. Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Defense, had decided to attack the Palestinians and Syrians in Lebanon, He flew to Washington to obtain the necessary American agreement. Alexander Haig told him that the US could not agree, unless there was a "credible provocation."
A few days later, the most extreme Palestinian group, led by Abu Nidal, Yasser Arafat's mortal enemy, made an attempt on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, paralyzing him irreversibly. That was certainly a "credible provocation." Lebanon War I was on its way.
This week's attack was also an answer to a prayer. Seems that God loves Netanyahu and the military establishment. The incident not only wiped the protest off the screen, it also put an end to any serious chance of taking billions off the huge military budget in order to strengthen the social services. On the contrary, the event proved that we need a sophisticated electronic fence along the 150 miles of our desert border with Sinai. More, not less, billions for the military.
BEFORE THIS miracle occurred, it looked as if the protest movement was unstoppable.
Whatever Netanyahu did was too little, too late, and just wrong.
In the first days, Netanyahu treated the whole thing as a childish prank, unworthy of the attention of responsible adults. When he realized that this movement was serious, he mumbled some vague proposals for lowering the price of apartments, but by then the protest had already moved far beyond the original demand for "affordable housing." The slogan was now "The People Want Social Justice."
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