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Monday, November 21, 2005

 

sharon's gambit


israeli prime minister ariel sharon, one of the founders of the likud party which has become the focal point of israeli militant nationalism, abandoned that party in favor of creating a new centrist party, to be called "national responsibility". this follows quickly on the heels of israel's left labor party -- now under labor union leader amir peretz, who recently ousted longtime labor leader shimon peres -- withdrawing from the governing coalition, which resulted in sharon's calling for the dissolution of the knesset and for new elections to be scheduled. sharon reputedly will invite peres to join national responsibility, giving rise to wonderful hopes of a broad-based party in the israeli center.

two weeks ago, sharon was faced with the emergence of the likud rebels, a hardline faction of likud centered on uzi landau and benjamin netanyahu, militantly opposed to almost any concession to the palestinians, which defected from sharon's leadership and his efforts to consolidate a restless likud behind the israeli evacuation of the gaza strip. this followed his surprise defeat of netanyahu's bid for likud leadership in september, turning back an earlier attempt to wrest likud from an increasingly moderate and sensible (and popular) sharon.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin explained the prime minister's decision: "Sharon understood that he was going in a direction that the Likud couldn't accept, both politically and in his taking of independent initiatives, and now he's chosen a very risky path."
that path, and what likud's more abjectly militant elements could not broach, was one of real steps toward a peaceful two state solution for the palestinian problem -- a view toward creating a new palestine in gaza and the west bank. such a step away from a militant nationalist zionism such as infects likud, which sees not only the israel demarcated by treaty in 1947 but much of the levant as israel's manifest destiny, is impossible for hard-bent paranoid ideologues like landau. sharon responded to the jeers of these rebels:

"We must decide if the Likud will continue to lead the nation united, with statesmanship and responsibility or if the Likud will be led by an irresponsible, extremist, mutinous opposition."

"I hear terrible sounds of shunning, hatreds, and excommunications," Sharon declared, "voices that threaten to the point of civil war, voices that call for refusal, that call for violence against soldiers, police, and against me."
as this page has said before, there is an israel that is not militant, not torturous, not paranoid, not obsessed with mercilessly dominating and humiliating the palestinian people, not a cauldron of wild-eyed messianic zionism. it sometimes seems that this is the only israel in the american news, largely because likud under sharon has dominated israeli politics since the failure of the oslo accords, and the intifada has only served to further radicalize many elements of israeli politics on both the left and the right.

this break with likud and a middle-road alliance between sharon and peres, venerable icons of israeli politics, may offer a genuine hope of that other, better israel seeing the surface in the knesset and relieving some large fraction of beleaguered israeli people from the onslaught of moral depredation that has sadly accompanied constantinian judaism. it is my sincerest hope that peres and sharon find a way to work together to resuscitate israel from its moral slumber and work to impart some of the moral lustre of judaism to the state that would purport to represent it -- not least because israel's moral and political dilemma represents a possible future for the united states, as it too suffers under the paranoid fantasies of an unhinged and morally bankrupt neoconservative political elite.

UPDATE: peres has left labor and is joining sharon.

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