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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Speculating about Sharon

The Daily Beast runs a puff piece that is meant to make you think that if only Ariel Sharon had remained Prime Minister, we would have peace and prosperity and lambs lying down with wolves (Hat Tip: Shy Guy).
The old soldier’s eyes are open. Sometimes he’s propped up in front of a TV, where images of nature and animals, especially cows, flicker across the screen. His family tells him the day’s news, the goings on at his beloved farm. They read to him, alternating between two books at a time, just as he used to do for himself. They play classical music. When his white hair grows long, they trim it. And once in a while, when someone tells him to move a toe, he does.

Whether Ariel Sharon takes in any of this activity, no one knows for sure. Because Israel’s once-robust prime minister and legendary battlefield hero—the decorated warrior, the controversial hawk and finally, beginning in 2001, the centrist prime minister who transformed the political landscape—has been in a coma for nearly four years, felled by a massive stroke. While not brain-dead, the 81 year old exists in a persistent vegetative state. He generally breathes on his own, but must be fed by a tube. He cannot speak, walk, or think. Probably.


Too healthy to die, too injured to rule; he lives in limbo, just like the Israeli peace process. The irony is unavoidable. Ariel Sharon, who spent his early life expanding the territory of his native land, then abandoned his dream and evicted settlers from Gaza to shrink Israel’s borders in the quest for peace, remains locked inside the barest human boundaries, imprisoned in his own body. He was once so uncompromising—self-confident, supporters said—they called him The Bulldozer. Other names, too. “Arik, King of the Jews,” after his conquest of the Sinai during the Yom Kippur War. “Murderer,” after failing to prevent the massacres of Lebanese civilians at the Sabra and Shatila camps in 1982. Sensitive and cultured. Stubborn and cruel. No one was ever neutral about Arik Sharon. Still true.


So, what if Sharon were still in office? Might things be different?

“I think we would have a Palestinian state,” says former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, calling it “the logical conclusion” of the Bush administration roadmap. Eager to praise her old negotiating partner (“a tough little tank driver”), she also thinks Sharon would have pulled out considerably from the West Bank. “I do,” she insists. “Now, it would have required a Palestinian partner who was prepared to take half a loaf, not a full loaf, because nobody was going to get everything they wanted. But I think the terms were available, and maybe he was strong enough to lead a consensus in Israel and get it done.” “Sharon was somebody who could deliver,” she adds. “ You could trust him to do what he said he was going to do.”
That's nonsense.

First, even Sharon understood that you could not just pull the IDF out of Judea and Samaria. He saw what it took to pull out of Gaza and he knew that it would be at least 20 times as complicated to pull out of Judea and Samaria. It's unlikely he would have even tried to do it unilaterally. That meant that a 'Palestinian partner' was required. There wasn't one in 2006 and there isn't one today.

Second, there is not and never will be a 'Palestinian partner' who will take 'half a loaf.' Ehud Olmert tried offering Abu Mazen a 95+5% loaf and Abu Mazen wouldn't take it. There's no peace in the horizon and there wouldn't be even if Ariel Sharon were still functioning.

What might have been different? Hamas and Hezbullah might not have attacked us in 2006 if Sharon had been Prime Minister rather than Olmert. And Sharon definitely would have responded more forcefully and strategically than Olmert did. That would not have brought peace, but it might have made Israel stronger.

Read the whole thing.


At 9:24 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The paradox of Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza has all but guaranteed Israel will never be able to repeat it on the West Bank. The Gaza pullout took place on the assumption the world would understand Israel had the right to defend itself against attacks from any territory it evacuated. Sharon did not foresee Goldstone and my guess is he would not pull out of the West Bank today any more than Netanyahu would. The reason there will never will be a Palestinian state is not because of the personality of this or that Israeli Prime Minister but because the Palestinians don't want one. There will no peace in the Middle East for at least a generation.

Sharon would have understood it if he had remained Prime Minister today.


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