Sunday :: Dec 11, 2005

Taking The Middle Way


by pessimist

I first wrote about Ariel Sharon's historic political move the other day, but it didn't seem to generate much interest, being tagged onto the end of another topic.

But in following the story further, I see that his move is gathering a great deal of support - and from both sides of the Knesset aisle. Former Labor Prime Minister Shimon Perez joined Kadima, as did The acting head of Israel’s Likud Party, Tzachi Hanegbi and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who quit the Likud Party to join the new Kadima party.

Sharon left Likud last month to form the Kadima party, a centrist organization with the goal of moving the Middle East peace process forward based on the U.S.-backed road map for peace. It is expected that 30 Likud members will join the current Prime Minister's party shortly.

It is my considered opinion that Sharon's example could be a role model for those American moderates of both parties who aren't comfortable joining the other side if they aren't happy where they are. In fact, they just might be the only ones who can save our nation from decending into Bu$hCo tyranny!

Look at how former political opponents are joining in the middle with Sharon because they see that he represents a real change in the status quo (to be covered below). MK (Member of the Knesset) Dalia Itzik, the senior female lawmaker in the Labor Party, has announced she is joining the Kadima Party, as is
Likud's legal advisor Eitan Haberman
. Both scholarship and national security are represented in the persons of Education Ministry DG Ronit Tirosh, the retired GSS (General Security Service/Shin Bet) Director Avi Dichter and the current Defense Minister Shaul Mofazhave all pledged allegiance, so there are both hawks and doves joining Kadima. Some will go Kadima because their party members seek to kick them out! ("Won't happen!" declares the intended refugee.)

Kadima also seeks Arab support - and appears to be getting it. Sharon must be doing something right if he's got critics to right of him and critics to left of him as he travels fearlessly through the valley of threatened political death!

Kadima is even drawing interest from some of Israel's minor parties, with Shinui party founder Uriel Reichman announcing he was joining with Sharon, and Meretz-Yahad Chair Yossi Beilin announced at his party's convention Sunday that Meretz would consider joining forces with Kadima if Sharon forms the next government.

Israelis vote March 28 to choose a new Knesset and prime minister after Benjamin Netanyahu resigned from Sharon's government, and Kadima is seen as a political juggernaut [subscription]. He could win, considering that Kadima is still gaining strength:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party continued to surge in the polls on Thursday, a day after interim Likud chairman Tzahi Hanegbi shifted his allegiance to it. An Israel Radio poll of 500 people taken on Wednesday predicted that Kadima could win as many as 44 mandates depending on who wins the Likud's December 19 leadership primary. The Likud could win 16 seats if led by former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Labor would receive only 21 or 22.

Kadima director-general Avigdor Yitzhaki announced that some 15,000 people had joined the party in the first week of its membership drive.

So why is Sharon taking this step, and why do Israaelis seem to be overwhelmingly in favor?

First the motive. Sharon has told his inner circle that he wishes to be the leader who will determine the final borders of Israel. This will involve making peace with the Palestinians, something that many Israelis still oppose - at least on the terms that Sharon is willing to consider: accepting the creation of a Palestinian state.

As Tzachi Hanegbi puts it:

"I am now willing to give up on things that I wasn't willing to give up in the past."

Many Israelis are also now willing to concede things they would't in the past:

THE PALESTINIAN-ISRAELI CONFLICT can be summed up in one word that both sides of the world's bitterest divide might agree on: intractable. The Israeli public, it seems, has had enough of the intractable.

It is with hope that the world watches Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon leave his own hard-line party, Likud, to form a new party dedicated to strength, reason--and a real country for the Palestinians. That hope grew with the news that Mr. Sharon's longtime nemesis, Shimon Peres, is quitting his left-leaning Labour party and joining Mr. Sharon's new centrist group.

The name of the new party is Kadima--meaning "forward" in Hebrew. Indeed, despite the ages of the two men (Sharon is 77, Peres 82), Israelis seem to want to move forward with them: Kadima is out the gate with a bang, far outpacing both Labour and Likud in early opinion polls.

In the end, the Israelis and Palestinians have no choice. For obduracy has failed both sides. Mr. Sharon is doing his part; will the nascent Palestinian leadership seize this chance for peace? With the rediscovery of "forward" thinking, perhaps "intractable" need no longer be the keyword in the Arab-Israeli saga.


'Everyone's sick of war; everyone wants accord'

Moroccan-born ex-Yavneh ex-Likud mayor Meir Sheetrit said he considers the establishment of Kadima, and its strong showing in current voter surveys, to be a vindication of the dovish mind-set he'd previously championed in what he claims used to be a more tolerant and diverse Likud.

"I think this country must reach peace. I don't want to risk a binational state. I want a Jewish state - democratic, with a clear Jewish majority, and no danger that tomorrow there'll be a different majority. That's why we established this state. And if I want that kind of state I have no choice but to leave most of the territories and let the Palestinians establish a state next to us. My only condition: that there should be complete peace, that they should eliminate terror.

"There's no way that this [two-state vision] can happen with the Likud of today, to my great sorrow. I've been in the Likud for 33 years, a Knesset member for 24 years. Until today, the Likud behaved differently. Nobody dreamed that Begin would leave Sinai. But he made peace with Egypt and we left the Sinai, dismantled all the settlements there. And look, thank God, there's been quiet there for almost 30 years and no soldier is getting killed on the Egyptian border. When Rabin made peace with Jordan, the Likud supported the agreement. Now with the Palestinians, the last bone in our throat, we have to reach an accord.

"We won't act unilaterally. The partnership is achieved through negotiations. The world won't sit idly by. The Americans are involved. The Europeans. Not all the Palestinians hate peace. I know almost all of the Palestinian leadership. Lots of them greatly want a peace agreement with Israel. I believe that if Israel is really ready for peace, there's a chance.

"The Palestinians aren't alone on the field either. The Arab world is also sick of them. The Arab world is pressing them. They also need world support. And they see that Israel's position has improved radically in the international arena. It has proved it is willing to make far-reaching steps for peace."

The stage is now set - and the reaction from some who opposed such moves in the past is favorable:


GENERAL SHARON HOLDS THE HIGH GROUND

Sharon, that human tank, seems to be the only Israeli leader who can convince Israelis to accept a viable peace plan that trades land for security.

Sharon had enough of Likud’s fanatical religious extremists who bitterly opposed his sensible pullout of Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza. Even Sharon’s plans to impose an unfavorable, unilateral territorial settlement on Palestinians were bitterly opposed by uber-Likudniks, and their leader-in-waiting, Bibi Netanyahu, who won’t give up their dream of biblical Greater Israel. Israel could not retain the entire West Bank and remain a democracy, Sharon admitted. He did not say it, but the only alternative is apartheid.

I am hoping Sharon has a still hidden agenda to implement a viable Palestinian state, and upgrade Israel’s downtrodden Arabs to first-class citizens, that will allow Israel and its neighbors to live in peace. Otherwise, the 80-year Arab-Israeli conflict will drag on.

The time is ripe. Gen Sharon controls all the high ground. Now is the time for him to win his last great battle by making genuine, lasting peace, and be remembered not only as Israel’s finest general, but also its bringer of peace.

Sharon and his US supporters – I call them the American Likud Party (aka `neoconservatives’) - did much to engineer the US war against Iraq, thereby destroying one of Israel’s prime enemies. So far, Israel, Iran and al-Qaida have been the only winners of the 2003 Iraq War. Israel has been able to lower defense spending and cut troops. Sharon, according to former US National Security Advisor Gen, Brent Scowcroft, `has Bush wrapped around his little finger.’

But Bu$hCo is seen as better off backing another Israeli stallion:


U.S. should learn about Peretz

Amir Peretz beat Shimon Peres for chairman of Israel's Labor Party and redefined the nation's peace camp. President Bush and his foreign-policy aides are much more comfortable with Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, the probable new Likud leader, than with Peretz.

Too bad, because Peretz is more likely to bring peace to Israel.

Labor's elitism, coupled with its neoliberal policies, have alienated much of the electoral backing it needs to build support for a final-status arrangement with the Palestinians. And what Peretz calls ''the ethnic genie'' has left a gaping hole in the fabric of Israeli society: Sephardic Jews from North Africa, mostly working class and poor, feel like second-class citizens.

A victorious Peretz in next spring's parliamentary elections would be the Bush administration's best hope for moving Israel toward a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians. A Peretz victory will depend on attracting these voters, who until now have not supported peace with the Palestinians. And he will reach out to the 20 percent of Israelis who are Arab.

It's impossible to project who will win the Israeli elections, but for the sake of U.S. foreign policy, Bush should hope for a strong showing by Peretz.

But as many incumbent Republicans under King George fear that they might not win reelection if they remain close to the throne, it is certain for Labor MKs if they don't remain close to Peretz:

Peretz is adding to his growing Knesset list. The sitting MKs are beginning to worry about their positions, and some have already realized that they will have a very hard time making it into the next Knesset.

The longer Peretz's list gets, the more concerned the sitting Labor MKs become. The national party list has 16 realistic spots (not counting the district slots). Peretz is expected to add at least another two new strong candidates to the list. This leaves the incumbent MKs, former prime minister Ehud Barak and other potential candidates - such as the former head of the Na'amat women's organization and at least six others - with only four realistic places on the list.

This situation is causing an interesting domestic development. It seems that Ehud Barak's wife has joined Kadima - and may run for office. Barak reportedly will remain with Labor. But this is an unusual case:

just like the Israeli Likud - is going to continue to drift rightward.

That isn't likely to play well with the American voters considering the nasty news that will make itself evident before too much longer. King George and the Neoconmen have nowhere to run, no one to hide behind (except maybe that DINO idiot Joe Mental), and no justifications to offer when they finally will be called to account for their numerous misdeeds.

Assuming that King George doesn't decide to end The American Experiment through the release of the 1918 flu virus (or any other excuse to declare martial law), and fair elections can be guaranteed, the portents are good for the end of Bu$hCo - and a chance at returning the nation to a state of political peace.

If this requires the creation of a centrist third American party, as is underway in Israel, then bring it on!

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