MideastWeb Middle East Web Log

log  archives  middle east  maps  history   documents   countries   books   encyclopedia   culture   dialogue   links    timeline   donations 


Perils of Sharon - Latest Installment


The old war horse is under attack from left and right for his disengagement plan, but don't bet against him. How can Sharon extricate himself from this crisis?

Everyone agrees that Israeli PM Sharon is in BIG TROUBLE. The source of his latest woes is not the pending proposed indictment on bribery charges (remember those?) which will probably be conveniently dropped despite the weight of the evidence. Sharon is not trouble for doing wrong. His problems stem from an attempt to to do right for once, and inject some sanity in the Middle East political arena, by withdrawing unilaterally from the Gaza strip and some isolated settlements in the West Bank - the so called disengagement plan.

If anyone had any doubts about the wisdom of disengagement, the recent fiasco in Gaza, which resulted in universal condemnation of Israel without gaining any real strategic advantages, should have put those doubts to rest. However, a powerful lobby inside Sharon's own Likud party, has united to defeat the disengagement plan. Since the plan was defeated in a referendum of Likud voters, Sharon has, as we predicted, offered the same plan in a new guise.

Sharon has little choice other than to continue with the plan, since he has already more or less committed himself to the USA to implement the disengagement plan in lieu of progress in the Roadmap, and American Israel Public Affairs Committee leaders have said that failure to implement the plan or excessive delays will adversely affect US-Israel relations.

In Israel, the disengagement plan has the support of about 60% of the people, and a recent demonstration in support of disengagement drew some 150,000 to Rabin square. However, in the political arena and the press, disengagement is about as popular as AIDS and income tax. Likud cabinet ministers and MKs have to answer to the Likud Central Committee and to Likud voters who decide who will stand for the Knesset, and those bodies lean far to the right.

To make matters worse, extreme right-wing activist Moshe Feiglin has been calling for right-wing voters to join the Likud, in order to push the party to the right. Settlement rabbi Dov Lior today called for right-wing religious Zionists to join the Likud. Lior, has also recently made headlines by ruling that it is OK to be careless of lives of non-Jewish civilians in order to save Israeli lives. A massive takeover of the Likud may marginalize the party, and leave the moderate right with no choice except to desert the Likud for the centrist Shinui party or another new party, and Sharon might find himself in their company.

The Labor party is unwilling to provide enthusiastic support for the revised disengagement plan, because it fears that the plan is a sham that will not be carried out. The new plan differs from the old plan mostly in that it is a staged withdrawal. Any stage of course, can be postponed by Palestinian terror attacks or other real or imagined security exigencies. Given that we can count on such attacks, it may be that the new plan is not meant to be implemented, but is rather a sop to the USA and President George Bush. Bush risked quite a bit of his prestige in the Middle East by backing the plan, and US prestige is in short supply in the Middle East these days.

The rightist press and pundits are against the plan because they are against disengagement. Leftist commentators are only too happy to see Sharon fail. Calculations show that Sharon is a few votes short of the majority needed for cabinet approval of disengagement. Last week, after Sharon failed to convince Finance Minister Bibi Nethanyahu to adopt even a very watered-down version of the plan, large block type headlines in popular Hebrew newspapers screamed "Sharon Folds" and "Sharon: I don't have a majority" and pundits of the left and right predicted that the end of Sharon is drawing nigh. As is usual in such crises, the sundry self-appointed Chicken Littles of the Israeli press are going about screaming "The Government is Falling" "The Government is Falling" - but that doesn't mean it is really happening.

Nothing is certain in Middle Eastern politics, but there are several good reasons to doubt this verdict. First, a good cabinet crisis with lots of mudslinging and doomsday predictions sells newspapers, but more often than not, the crisis is resolved somehow. Second, Sharon is a survivor. His political demise has been forecast many times in the past. Third, the US is behind the plan. Fourth, there are no alternatives to the current political constellation in view, and fifth, there are no alternatives to the disengagement plan.

There are no alternatives to the current political constellation in view. Ariel Sharon is far more popular than his rival Benjamin Nethanyahu among Likud voters. Even the doctrinaire members of the Central Committee and the members of Knesset have to take this into account. Despite the atrocious economic record of the Likud, lack of progress in the peace process and looming scandals, the Labor party led by Shimon Peres or anyone else they can offer at this time, cannot gain a majority. Polls indicate that new elections would probably result in a five seat majority for the right without the centrist Shinui party. A coalition of Likud, the centrist Shinui party and Labor, led by Sharon, is just as likely. The left would gain about 7 or 8 seats, but still could not form a coalition. New elections would not change much.

There are no alternatives to the disengagement plan as long as Yasser Arafat is power, because no Israeli government, certainly no right-wing government, is going to negotiate with the PNA while it is led by Arafat. Yossi Beilin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak are living reminders of what happens to Israeli politicians who are willing to do business with the PLO while it is led by Arafat. Those who say that we must negotiate rather than give the Palestinians something for nothing should consider whether it is better to give up Gaza in return for American promises only, dubious as they may be, or to give up Gaza in return for empty PNA promises and help relegitimize the rule of Arafat without getting any Palestinian commitment to security reform or an end to incitement.

Doing nothing is not an alternative either. As Sharon has pointed out, with the roadmap stalled, pressure is growing on Israel for a political settlement. The relative lack of terrorist attacks in recent months has been purchased at the price of a considerable investment in security, and a price in lives of Israeli soldiers and of Palestinians. The recent incidents in Gaza are only a dramatic illustration of a grim daily reality of house demolitions, Israeli casualties, terror incidents, and deaths of both Palestinian terrorists and innocent civilians. It cannot go on indefinitely. After the US elections in November, whoever is elected, pressure will mount on Israel to show some progress toward peace, in order to offset the tremendous loss in US prestige incurred by the disaster in Iraq, as the US struggles to implement its vision of Middle East reform as well as to secure cooperation in fighting terror and to get the price of oil down to liveable levels. Pressure will also mount from EU countries and from the UN, whose prestige and influence may grow as that of the US wanes. These considerations can be ignored by opposition politicians, but they could not be ignored by any Israeli government. That is why Sharon is claiming that oponents of the plan are putting themselves and the party ahead of the good of Israel: If they come to power instead of Sharon, they will still, regardless of any promises, have to implement Sharon's proposals, or proposals even less appetizing for Israel, such as an international peace conference. As Sharon observed about life in the opposition after coming to power, "From here, it doesn't look the same as it did from there."

Sharon has a number of options for getting himself out of the problem created by the Likud "no" vote in the recent referendum. He is presented his plan to the cabinet this Sunday, but without a vote, knowing that it would not pass a vote. First he is going to try to get the plan passed by cajolery and political wheeling and dealing. If that doesn't work, he will fire some recalcitrant cabinet ministers. Candidates include Benjamin Nethanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, both of whom were roundly roasted by Sharon and "sources close to the PM" in recent days. This may be done in combination with bringing the Labor party into the government, or he may just use the credible threat of such a unity government to bring cabinet ministers in line. Ultimately, he might form a new party, splintering the Likud. However, the most likely scenario of all is a compromise that allows everyone to save face. One compromise that suggests itself, is to approve the first phase of the plan only, which involves removing only the block of settlements in the center of Gaza that are hardest to defend. At the same time, the government would present to the Knesset a law for a nationwide referendum that would vote on the remainder of the plan.

The tally? If I were a betting man, I would give 2:1 odds on Sharon and 5:2 odds that in ten years there won't be Israeli settlements in Gaza.

Ami Isseroff

If you like this post - click to Reddit!
add to del.icio.usAdd to digg - digg it

Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000266.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 10:26 AM CST [Link]


Middle East e-Zine

Midde East News

Opinion Digest

Late Updates


Middle East Glossary

Middle East Maps

Middle East Books

Middle East Documents

Israel-Palestine History

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Middle East Countries

Middle East Economy

Middle East Population

Middle East Health

Zionism History

Palestinian Parties

Palestinian Refugees

Peace Plans


Middle East


Blog Links

OneVoice - Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog

Bravo411 -Info Freedom

Israel News


Michael Brenner

Dutchblog Israel

Dutch - IMO (Israel & Midden-Oosten) Blog (NL)



Alas, a Blog

Little Green Footballs

Blue Truth

Fresno Zionism

Reut Blog

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Blog

Simply Jews: Judaism and Israel

Jeff Weintraub - Commentaries and Controversies

Vital Perspective


Meretz USA Weblog


MIDEAST observer

On the Contrary

Blogger News Network- BNN

Google Sex Maps

Demediacratic Nation

Realistic Dove

Tulip - Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union Assoc.

On the Face

Israel Palestjnen (Dutch)

Middle East Analysis

Israel: Like This, As If

Middle East Analysis

Mid_East Journal

Z-Word Blog

Dvar Dea

SEO for Everyone

Web Sites & Pages

Israeli-Palestinian Procon

End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Voice


ATFP- American Task Force on Palestine

Americans For Peace Now

Shalom Achshav

Chicago Peace Now


Peacechild Israel

Bridges of Peace


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict



Zionism and Israel

Zionism and Israel on the Web

Israel - Palestina:Midden-Oosten Conflict + Zionisme

IsraŽl in de Media

Euston Manifesto

New Year Peace


Christian Zionism

Jew Hate

Space Shuttle Blog

Israel News Magazine


My Ecosystem Details
International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Link 2 us
We link 2 U.
MidEastWeb- Middle East News & Views
MidEastWeb is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites

Replies: 1 Comment

Are any comments disagreeing with the Israeli occupation considered racist? Seems to me, that is how you all have survived so long; by crying racism anytime anyone opposes your ethnic cleansing and outright war crimes.

Posted by Edward Reed @ 06/21/2004 01:35 AM CST

Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.

Powered By Greymatter

[Previous entry: "What did President Bush say in his speech?"] Main Index [Next entry: "Creating a Reality of Israeli-Palestinian Peace"]


Thank you for visiting MidEastWeb - Middle East.
If you like what you see here, tell others about the MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log - www.mideastweb.org/log/.

Contact Us


Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.

Editors can log in by clicking here

Technorati Profile

RSS FeedRSS feed Add to Amphetadesk Add to Amphetadesk

USA Credit Card - Donate to MidEastWeb  On-Line - Help us live and grow