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The Sharon Enigma


At a time when Israel should be celebrating the declared end to the Intafada, and when those photo-ops starring Sharon, Abu Mazen, Mubarak and King Abdullah engendered widespread sighs of relief, why am I not dancing in the streets?

I’ll tell you why not. Events of the past few months have been very disturbing. At first glance, the restoration of calm should be cause for rejoicing, but we lived through the euphoria of Oslo before and it appears that this latest development is but a facade designed to lull Israel and its leadership into complacency.

Ah, the remarkable human capacity for self-inflicted blindness. But of course a people cannot be blamed for embracing a future painted rosy by the “experts.” A worn-down nation just wants to live in peace and address its domestic and social grievances. There has been enough bloodshed.

Even so, leaders are supposed to be more savvy, experienced and wary than their populations at large. Notwithstanding the public mood, leaders have to tread carefully down a thorny road, surrendering nothing of consequence until the truth has been properly tested. There are, or should be, watchdogs to monitor the genuineness of gestures, to guard against the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Time will tell. Was Arafat the only stumbling block to peace, or is violent resistance by the Palestinians a national characteristic?

When things happen too fast, one always has to be skeptical. If something seems to be too good to be trueit usually is. Give Peace a Chance may be a familiar lyric, but peace doesn’t need to be given a chance. True peace evolves and works when two conflicting sides want it to happen. Not because somebody gifts it.

But the Arabs have their own agenda. And give them credit – they’ve always been unwilling, for the most part, to disguise that agenda for strategic purposes; unwilling, for the most part, to play the diplomatic game. How long do you think members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are going to be content running an office rather than guns? What will their lives be like without the cause, when the only explosions they hear will emanate from their video games? Time will tell, indeed.

Israeli politicians on the Left claim that after a Palestinian state is declared, the PA will shoulder greater responsibility and rein in the fanatics. We will, they say, be dealing with an organized, sovereign government. Sounds nice, but they are as wrong about that as they were about their Oslo pronouncements.

The notion that Israel could, if the situation called for it, simply retake ceded positions from a new Palestinian state is nonsense. Such a state will not be a ramshackle Ramallah compound but a sovereign country protected by the UN and Europe. Just wait and see what the response will be from the international community when Israel embarks on an “incursion” into sovereign Palestine.

At this point, reassurances by Ariel Sharon are about as empty as the hollow declarations that the cabinet will rid Sderot of Kassams and mortars. Humbug! Vacant threats and unfulfilled promises – a politician’s quick fix and best friend in his arsenal to deflect criticism.

And therein lies the tragedy, because the real problem lies not with the other side but with our leader, Mr. Sharon. He is not guided by a belief in a Promised Land or Torah principles. He is the bulldozer who pioneered the settlements in the first place and has his own sense of divine providence: Sharon giveth, Sharon taketh away.

It is understandable that for an Israeli without a sense of mission and belief, Israel is just another country he or she happens to live in. Such an individual cannot comprehend those who live with idealistic goals and personal sacrifice. Material gain far outweighs any spiritual aspirations. In that light, why, indeed, should soldiers guard a small settlement of hundreds, when you can retreat to a safer haven and hope the other side has no plans to advance?

About the Author: Martin Davidson, a former aide to Israeli President Moshe Katsav, has been a political writer and entertainment editor for a variety of publications including The Jewish Press and The Jerusalem Post. He lectures on the subject of "Tourism and Terrorism" and regularly contributes articles on the evolving political situation in Israel.


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