Following the example of its counterparts in the West, for decades the Israeli Left has carefully cultivated its image as the fun side of the political divide.
In a thousand different ways, the public was told that the Left is on the side of tomorrow. It is the home of optimism. If you want a cheery future, if you want to party all night long and never get a hangover, the image-makers told us the Left is the place to be.
From the Left's perspective, the peace process between Israel and the PLO was the fulfillment of its promise. It was also its key to a permanent cultural monopoly and control of government.
Israelis who objected to handing control over the country's heartland and capital city to the PLO were nothing more than gloom and doom preaching, messianic extremists. The Right was angry. The Left was happy. The Right was the party of war. The Left was the party of peace. The Right was suspicious and tribal. The Left was optimistic and international.
The first blows to the Left's otherwise perfect narrative were cast just seven months after the moment of its greatest triumph. Just seven months after the epic handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, the first Palestinian suicide bomber made his appearance. On April 6, 1994, the bomber murdered eight Israelis on a bus in Afula.
By the time the peace process was a year old, the image of the suicide bomber had begun to eclipse the image of the balloon-festooned peace the Left sought to embody.
It was at this time that the Left could have been expected to reconsider its commitment to the peace process. But that is not what happened. The Left maintained absolute allegiance to the phony peace process. It simply ditched hope.
Quietly but relentlessly, the Left replaced hope for a better future with fear of a terrible future. Specifically, Leftist leaders like Haim Ramon began threatening their countrymen with national demographic destruction.
Ramon seized upon falsified Palestinian demographic forecasts. He and his comrades used the data - which inflated the number of Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip by 50 percent - to threaten their countrymen with encroaching demographic doom.
True, transferring land to the PLO had turned out to be a very bad idea. True life had been better and safer before the fake peace process.
But, the Left warned, if we didn't retreat to the 1949 armistice lines anyway, Jews would become a minority in our country within 15 years.
It took much longer for the demographic time bomb to be exposed as a dud than for the peace fantasy to explode. Indeed, Ramon's Kadima Party still bases its surrender platform on the phony PLO population data.
But today, with even the leftist media admitting that Israeli Jews have the highest birthrates in the Western world and that Israeli and Palestinian birthrates are rapidly converging, it has become difficult to convince Israelis that surrender is necessary on demographic grounds. Indeed, a poll taken by the post-Zionist Geneva Initiative in 2008 showed that 71% of Israelis were not concerned about losing Israel's Jewish majority.
The Left's demographic threats began unraveling just before its land surrender doctrine was wholly discredited. The American-Israeli Demographic Research Group published its initial study that exposed the Palestinian population data as a fraud just months before the August 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.
YET EVEN as its plan of surrendering land to jihadists was exposed as so much idiocy, and its demographic doomsday scenarios were proven wrong, the Left remained steadfast on its course. It simply found a new argument.
Beginning around 2006, the Left began threatening that if Israel does not remove itself from Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, the US will abandon us. On Sunday night, former prime minister Ehud Olmert presented this argument in his keynote speech before the Geneva Initiative's annual conference.
Olmert claimed that if Israel does not retreat voluntarily to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, the US will force it to retreat. Israel, he said, has no choice but to voluntarily partition Jerusalem and withdraw from Judea and Samaria. Left unsaid was the assumption that such a retreat will entail turning between 100,000 and a half million Israelis who live in the areas to be ceded into homeless internal refugees.
Olmert's statement is worth considering not because he said it, but because today it is the Left's central argument for withdrawal. In analyzing this claim, lt us assume at the outset that Olmert is correct and that if Israel does not voluntarily cede Judea and Samaria and partition Jerusalem, the US will try to coerce Israel to do so.
In this scenario Israel faces two possible futures. It can withdraw or it can resist US pressure, try to remain in place and only leave when compelled to do so.
If Israel withdraws it will relinquish defensible borders and clear the way for the emergence of a terrorist-controlled area abutting all its major population centers.
At a minimum, this terror enclave will be in a de facto state of war with Israel as it cultivates warm ties with Syria, Hizbullah, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In addition to its increased vulnerability to external enemies, Israel will be a society at war with itself. Its population will be deeply scarred and weakened after hundreds of thousands of Israelis are expelled from their homes.
If Israel does not withdraw, its cities will remain secure and its population will not be in crisis. But Israel will have to contend with a hostile US government threatening to take unknown steps to force it to contract to within indefensible borders.
What will those US threats involve? Washington is already arming and training a Palestinian army. It is already selling the Arabs the most advanced weapons in the US arsenal. It is already providing military assistance to the Hizbullah-controlled Lebanese army. It is already permitting Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Would Olmert and his leftist colleagues have us believe that the US military will invade Israel to force us to exit Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem?
If that is what the Left is hinting, let us assume it is right. But if the Left is right, is Israel better off preemptively dooming itself to chronic wars and strategic vulnerability by accepting indefensible borders than by refusing to do so? At least if we refuse to stick our neck in the noose, the US government will be forced to make the case for destroying Israel to the American people.
And then there is the Left's certainty that it can foresee the future. That would be the same Left that promised us peace, demographic destruction, and that Gaza would become the new Singapore after we withdrew. But even if there is a residue of reality in its new threats, why should we squander Israel's security based on a scenario that may or may not play out?
THE FACT of the matter is that like the peace fantasy and the demographic fantasy, the international-isolation-and-war-with-the-US fantasy is pure nonsense. None of these leftist scenarios - whether rosy or bleak - have ever withstood the slightest scrutiny.
So what accounts for the Left's behavior? Why is it that intelligent people like Olmert and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and their comrades in the Labor Party and Meretz and the Geneva Initiative are so quick to make insipid arguments? Why won't they just admit that Israel is better off remaining where it is and not contracting to within indefensible boundaries?
What do they really want?
The answer to this last question is as simple as it is insidious. What the Left truly seeks is not peace or even security. In pushing their land surrender policy in the face of a mountain of evidence that it imperils the country, leftist ideologues and political leaders are seeking to destroy their ideological rivals on the Right. That is, they wish to destroy religious Zionism.
It is religious Zionism, which looks to Jerusalem rather than to Tel Aviv, that drives the Left to distraction. It is the hope of destroying religious Zionism by destroying the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem - the Jewish nerve center of the country - that keeps the Left on its path. This truth was exposed in a Haaretz editorial published in July 2005, a month before 10,000 predominantly religious Israelis were expelled from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria.
As the Left's mouthpiece explained, "The disengagement of Israeli policy from its religious fuel is the real disengagement currently on the agenda. On the day after the disengagement, religious Zionism's status will be different."
The editorial concluded, "The real question is not how many mortar shells will fall, or who will guard the Philadelphi route, or whether the Palestinians will dance on the roofs of Ganei Tal. The real question is who sets the national agenda."
So, too, in an interview with Yediot Aharonot in October 2006, Livni castigated religious Zionists as the odd man out that was spoiling things for the rest of the country. As she put it, "In the Israeli political system there are no real gaps concerning the [vision of a] comprehensive settlement of the conflict with the Palestinians. The dispute is between the religious public and the rest of the Israelis."
In truth, just two weeks before her interview appeared, a Maagar Mohot poll of Israeli Jews showed that 73% of Israeli Jews opposed further withdrawals. At no point has the majority of Israel's Jews ever asserted that it views religious Zionists as a threat or as the major obstacle to a better future.
Indeed, in a poll published earlier this month by Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center, 79% of the public said they are "not at all concerned" by the consistent rise in the proportion of religious Israelis in the IDF officer corps. Only 1% of the public said it was very concerned about the trend.
What the Left's move from hope to fear in the service of its plan to destroy its ideological rival shows is that in contrast to its carefully crafted image, the Left is fundamentally out of step with the public. They are not the optimistic side on the political divide. And they are not interested in making our lives better or more fun. They are motivated by hatred of their rivals, not love of country or devotion to peace.
Perhaps the only question then is how many more times they will be allowed to lead us astray before we stop allowing them define the terms of our national debate?