"An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country," said the British statesman, Sir Henry Wotton, some 400 years ago.
Shimon Peres is a perfect ambassador and an honorable man (as in the speech by Marc Anthony about the murderers of Caesar in Shakespeare's play: "And they are all, all honorable men.") He lies all the time, not for the good of his country, but for the good of his government and its head, Ariel Sharon.
Peres resembles a man playing with his dog. The master throws a stick, the dog runs to retrieve it. Sometimes the dog is so quick that it catches the stick in the air. That is Peres' act, too: he throws a statement, and his dog, called "Denial", runs and retrieves it.
This happened three times last week. Peres announced that Yasser Arafat had agreed to a cease-fire, and then denied it. He convinced President Mubarak that a cease-fire was about to begin any minute, and then denied it. (Not before Mubarak had already made a highly embarrassing announcement.) He declared that Arafat is not responsible for the terror, and then denied it (when Sharon's people hit him over the head.)
Peres' admirers - yes, there still are some - argue that he lies for a good cause. It's all tactics, they say: he tells each party that the other one has agreed to his ideas. Unfortunately, the result is the very opposite: all parties become convinced that there is no chance of peace.
When a Nobel Peace Prize laureate appears as Sharon's messenger, he creates the illusion that Sharon really wants peace, while Sharon himself says and does the opposite.
Truth is, Peres is himself a walking lie. When a Nobel Peace Prize laureate appears as Sharon's messenger, he creates the illusion that Sharon really wants peace, while Sharon himself says and does the opposite. Peres serves Sharon as a bullet-proof vest, protecting him from the bullets of criticism, while Sharon continues with his policy of assassinations ("liquidations" in the Mafia-style slang of the occupation officers), destroys neighborhoods and enlarges settlements, in the course of his war against the Palestinian people. In the tradition of the oldest profession, Peres offers his services for a price. It could be called Perestitution.
The gossips, who are called "political correspondents" in Israel, invent battles between Sharon and Peres. The truth is different: a nearly perfect harmony prevails between the two. Peres is the ideal collaborator. It is doubtful whether Sharon could do what he does without Peres' special expertise.
Let's take, for example, the "Egyptian-Jordanian initiative". It offers a simple deal: an end to the Palestinian uprising in return for an end to the settlement activity. Afterwards the political negotiations will be resumed to bring about a final settlement within a year. Reasonable? Well, yes.
Sharon, a very unsophisticated man, rejected the proposal "out of hand". (Rejecting "out of hand" is the hallmark of Israeli-style masculinity.) Peres convinced him to adopt a more sophisticated method: to accept the proposal and reject its contents. In other words, to castrate it while mouthing good wishes for a happy birth.
To stop the settlement activity? Yes, of course, with pleasure, why not. The government has already declared in its "basic guidelines" that it will not build new settlements. But one must provide for "natural growth". Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Especially when it comes from the mouth of a Nobel-prize laureate like Peres.
Well, first, the "basic guidelines" are not worth the paper they are written on. I would not be surprised if they hang on the wall of the Prime Minister's office lavatory. Every new government, upon its creation, presents them to the Knesset when it asks for its vote of confidence, and from that moment on they are forgotten. They have no legal standing whatsoever.
Second, the talk about not setting up new settlements is manifestly mendacious. On the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip dozens of new settlements have been set up in the guise of new neighborhoods of old settlements. For example: at this very moment the government is endeavoring to put up a new settlements on Tal hill, under the pretext that it is just a new neighborhood of Alfei Menashe settlement, which lies a few kilometers from there. Efrat settlement looks like a string of sausages going on for kilometers, and from time to time a new settlement is set up on the next hill.
"Natural growth" is an especially sophisticated lie. The government does not say "natural increase", which would mean houses for the children of the old settlers. "Natural growth" is something else altogether. It has no limits. It can be stretched like chewing gum. Who will decide what is "natural" and what is "growth"? Sharon, of course. Indeed, since the Oslo agreement, in which Israel undertook not to change the reality on the ground, the number of settlers has nearly doubled under the guise of "natural growth". Even if the settlers bred like rabbits and entered the Guiness Book of Records for it, they could not achieve such a high natural increase.
But the pinnacle of sophistication was achieved by Peres in his proposal that the Palestinians should end the "terror", and then, several months later, negotiations would start again. Meaning: the Palestinians will lay down their arms in return for nothing. The Palestinian public will certainly reject a proposal that says that its more than 400 martyrs will have fallen in vain and the intifada will end in capitulation, in the hope that Sharon will offer concessions after the Palestinians have been disarmed. Especially when two or three suicide-bombers could at any time provide a pretext for stopping everything. But Peres can pretend that he made a far-reaching offer for peace.
The basis of all these lies is, of course, the use of the word "terror", which denies the fact that this is an uprising of the whole Palestinian people, including all sectors and organizations. The denial of this simple fact leads to the ridiculous debate in Israel about whether Arafat "wants" or "can" put an end to the "violence". The answer is: Yes and yes, if Israel makes an offer that the majority of the Palestinian people are ready to accept. If not, the answer is: No and no. There is no difference between Arafat and his people in this respect, and any effort to create such a difference is futile, suited more to an occupation-force brigade-commander than to a Nobel-prize laureate.
I believe that all this is clear to Peres. He lies brazenly to the world, the Americans, Mubarak, the Palestinians. I don't believe he lies to Sharon. Well, maybe a little, out of habit.
Somebody has said that Israel now resembles a Video cassette in rewind mode, rolling back to 1948 and beyond. Peres is a part of this process. After the intermezzo of the New Middle East, he is becoming again what he was all his life: a Zionist hawk, the defense minister who put the first settlement (Kedumim) in the middle of the West Bank, an architect of the French-Israeli collusion against Egypt, Ben-Gurion's messenger-boy. And at every stage - an inveterate liar.