Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Things are more or less getting back to normal in most parts of Northern Israel. I find it strange and irresponsible that the name of the soldier who "killed most of the [ Hizbullah ] gunmen" is mentioned. Did the radio station want to stress that yeshiva students can be good soldiers? I don't think that many Israelis had any doubts about that. Not for the first time Hizbullah shows that it can do a good contractor's job not only for Iran but also for its secondary master, the Assad regime, by trying to divert attention from Syria's political and diplomatic problems through attacks against Israel. I would not recommend Hizbullah and the Syrian president to continue pursuing this path, because it will weaken Hizbullah and might speed up Assad's own downfall. Also, the Lebanese government has a great interest in restoring the calm at its southern border. With the disengagement only months behind us and elections coming up, Israel's Prime Minister and Minister of Defense - both of whom are doing their best to curry electoral favor with Likud voters, for different reasons - will do everything to make sure the Israeli public feels that Israel won't be trifled with. As for Israeli politics, while reading Rushdie's book in the train yesterday I saw other people reading two articles with an identical title ( "Earth quake" ) in different Hebrew dailies ( Ma'ariv and Yedioth ). I am not sure if earthquake is a proper description of what has been and still is happening here, especially because earthquakes mostly come as a very unpleasant surprise, whereas Sharon's leaving the Likud did not surprise many of us anymore, and I could think of more unpleasant things than seeing at least six Likudniks compete in order to become leader of a party that for many years has been dysfunctional already.
The most positive result of Sharon's decision to leave the party of which he was one of the main founders seems to be that in the coming elections Israeli voters will have two very clear options to choose from, at least as far as our presence in the territories is concerned. That is, I would be surprised if Sharon will use phrases like "The fate of Netsarim - one of the settlements that were evacuated in the Gaza Strip - is like the fate of Tel Aviv" like he did in previous election campaigns. Sharon will probably not outline Israel's exact borders as he envisages them, but it is clear that a vote for him is a vote for ending the naturalness of the occupation and for allowing 'painful territorial concessions' to be discussed and considered seriously. In that respect, Israel's Right has changed profoundly. Under Peretz, Labor will support every move that is aimed at ending the occupation ( in most of the territories ), by negotiations if possible, unilaterally if necessary. Still, let's wait and see, opinion polls and election results are not one and the same thing ( I almost added this cynical remark: ..."in particular when you have Shimon Peres on your team" ).
Two things I do not like, though. First, after the disengagement I am convinced that Sharon is capable of taking and carrying out at least some of the decisions that are absolutely necessary to make life much better for most Israelis ( disengagement II for instance, but also social issues ), but as with Rabin, it seems that 'Sharon's way' is totally dependent on one person. There is no solid and ideological movement behind him, only or mostly political opportunists have supported him in the last couple of years. If, heaven forbid, something happens to Ariel Sharon, we will be back to square one in most respects. If I know this, our worst enemies within and without know it as well, don't you think? Second, we pin our hopes on septua- and octogenarians such as Sharon and Peres, and there is not a young alternative or replacement ( with vision, leadership qualities, integrity - not Sharon's strongest asset, by the way -, etc. ) on the horizon yet. Amir Peretz does have some positive qualities and characteristics, and if he manages to lead Labor to some good election results he could become a key member of the next government and a driving force behind some of the changes that have to be made , but calling him already an alternative or a serious candidate for Prime Minister is premature.

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