Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ariel Sharon

In the light of Ariel Sharon’s condition, anyone not sure what to make of the man and his legacy (and I’m one of them – I’m not very clued up on Israeli history and I had no idea that this one man was so central to the story from the very beginning) could do a lot worse than read this summary of ‘The Bulldozer’ by the ever excellent Christopher Hitchens.

Sharon could still theoretically survive, but his political career is definitely over, placing the future of the peace process in serious jeopardy. The elections are coming up on March 28th and, as leader of the newly-formed Kadima (‘Forward’) party, Sharon was the clear favourite. I have no idea what will happen now. I know we’ve got a couple of readers in Israel – maybe they can shed some light on what this will all mean? Should we expect the return of the housewife’s favourite: Binyamin Netanyahu?


tafka PP said...

Its actually all very depressing. I've never been much of a Sharon fan personally, but in view of the founding Israeli dinosaurs we have left to choose from as a leader (and who commands respect) I'm not sure who else has the clout to make the anticipated partial withdrawal from the West Bank. Sharon managed to bring us out of Gaza largely because he put us there in the first place.

So it all looks rather bleak, and will be more so if Netanyahu worms his way back in anytime soon. *shudder*. My Palestinian friends are even praying for Sharon's health- for that reason alone!

Maybe H will leave a more optimistic comment than mine...

H said...

I can offer no greater optimism. I believe the return of Bibi (the housewives' favourite?) is likely, though this will depend on what exactly happens to Kadima (Sharon's party) in the coming days and weeks. Most critically - will the inept and naive Amir Peretz, the leader of the Left wing Avodah (labour) Party, who managed to distance his two most experienced politicians be able to use this as an opportunity to start the campaing over again? If not, then Kadima could keep going strong, or lose ground to Bibi's Likud. My opinion is bleak - I foresee a close three way race, with Bibi coming out on top and an awful and expensive stalemate in the diplomatic arena to follow, until eventually Bibi's narrow right coalition falls apart. Sorry.

As for what to make of Ariel Sharon - a word of warning - as Public Enemy once put it - Don't believe the hype (huh, huh, huh huh huh). Sharon was not influential in Israel's war of independence but certainly was later in Israel's military, but because he was never trusted, was never let into the highest echelons of the military inner circle. As a politician he was irrelevant until he started the Lebanon War - the only war Israel started which can not be claimed to be a war of defense. After that he was banned from holding the office of Defense Minister and returned to irrelevancy on a national level until the late 90s. The reason why people are talking of him as central is because he is old and has always been there or thereabouts, but he has been far less central to Israeli history than say someone like Shimon Peres - it is just that Shimon Peres is a perpetual loser, so when he finally outlived all the others of his generation, and was left to lead his party, no-one wanted him to lead the country. The focus on Sharon now, is because he is facing the end of his career - a career in which he has slid back and forth down the political spectrum. Of course people talk about how central he was to Israel's history, because they are trying to sell news, but it should be taken with a pinch of salt.

If Bibi does get in, this will be a huge blow to Peace, but if someone else is left steering Sharon's ship, we could still get there.

Citizen Sane said...

Thanks for that, very interesting.

The 'housewife's favourite' thing came from the first Gulf War in 1991. I have vivid memories of Netanyahu making regular appearances on the news and getting something of a devoted following. Probably from the same women who like Gordon Brown because of his "Heathcliff-like demeanour". I am not joking. Then there was Lynn, Alan Partridge's PA, who clearly had a bit of a thing for 'Bibi' too.

Partridge: Stop going on about Binyamin Netanyahu, Lynn. You're never going to meet him.

So, PP and H: if the future of the peace process were to suddenly fall into your hands, what would you do? How do you think peace could be achieved (if at all)?

tafka PP said...

Now there's a question. I'm in favour of a two-state solution, I don't see any other viable alternative at this stage. Not sure how it will all pan out on the Palestinian side- there's a lot of corruption and infighting- but all the same, the sooner they can start sorting themselves out as a society and not have the "occupation" to blame everything on, the better. Most Israelis (and Palestinians) hold similar views: the most frightening obstacles to the peace process, to my mind, are the extreme elements (within both our societies) who will stop at nothing to derail it. So proper steps have to be taken to curb those elements before we can move forward. I certainly don't envy the Palestinian leadership (that is if they actually are taking any steps to dismantle any of the terror groups.)

Re Netanyahu- funnily enough, he's a lot slicker when he speaks in English, and something of a disappointment on home turf. But he still has his fans here: I even have a friend who goes to Netanyahu's favourite cafe wearing low tops just so she can bat her eyelids at him. I kid you not. And she's not even a housewife.