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August 6, 2001
Good Cop, Bad Cop

By Uri Avnery


Everyone who has seen crime movies knows them: the good cop and the bad cop.

The bad cop (say Gene Hackman) starts to interrogate the suspect. He shouts, curses, threatens, hits him. At the right moment, the good cop (say Clint Eastwood) enters.

"How do you dare to behave like this?" he shouts at the bad cop, "get out!" He offers the frightened suspect a cigarette and coffee and says: "What a beast that man is! He can do terrible things to you. Only yesterday a man almost died during his interrogation. But I can get him off this interrogation. Only, just to convince the boss, you must give me some little piece of information. So who was your accomplice in the bank robbery?"

Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres are playing now these characters for a world-wide audience in a movie that may well win the Oscar some day. "Excellent acting," the jury will report, "an exceptionally convincing performance."

The bad cop, Sharon, shouts: "Hold me! I am crazy! I'll go berserk!" It's easy for him to convince the audience, because they remember his previous movies ("Blood and tears in Kibia" or "Is Gaza burning?" not to mention the blockbuster "Darkness in Sabra and Shatilla".)

His partner is equally famous. Shimon Peres, an actor who won many prizes, played the bad guy in his early movies ("The Way to Suez" and "The Dimona Mystery" spring to mind), but for many years now he has been cast as the peacemaker. Who doesn't remember "Doves in Oslo"?

The division of roles is natural. Central Casting could not do better. Sharon threatens the world. If let loose, he will invade the Palestinian territories, kill Arafat, drive masses of Palestinians across the Jordan river, perhaps invade Lebanon and Syria on the way. An earthquake will send shudders throughout the Middle East, the regimes of Egypt and Jordan may collapse, even Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will totter, the oil will catch fire, the global economy will collapse.

But all this will not happen. Why? Because Peres, the good cop, is holding Sharon , preventing him from going berserk. He travels between the capitals of the world, imploring presidents and prime ministers: Please, help me to restrain that terrible person! I can't do it if you don't let him enlarge the settlements and break the existing agreements, and if you try to compel him to return to the negotiations. It's bad, but it will prevent a catastrophe!

The world rests assured. The leaders are afraid of Sharon, but as long as Peres is at his side, everything is OK. Nothing really terrible can happen.

All this is playacting, of course. Peres is quite unable to prevent Sharon from doing anything he wants to do. Nowadays, Peres is a political lightweight, while Sharon is a heavyweight master. He could get rid of Peres anytime, putting an end to his career forever.

So why doesn't he go berserk? Because the American sword of Damocles is hanging over his head. No Israeli leader can oppose the will of the United States when it really concerns American interests. All Israelis know this. After all, they are the only people outside the US who wave American flags on their Independence Day.

These days, Washington is in the hands of the oil people. They are content with "condemning" Sharon as long as he only assassinates Palestinian leaders and enlarges the settlements. He knows very well that there is a red line and where it is. He waits patiently for the day when he will succeed in convincing the Americans to allow him a free hand for the great adventure, as they did in 1982.

In the meantime, he uses Peres in order to tell his own extremist supporters that he must "restrain himself" against his will in order to preserve "national unity". While the good Peres crosses the oceans as a travelling salesman, selling Sharon's policy of "liquidations" and all the other instruments of occupation and spreading the lie about the "generous offers" which were refuses by Arafat.

Peres has already been awarded the third of a Nobel prize. He can now look forward to receiving the half of an Oscar.