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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Shattered Dreams

For a while, I have been praising the genius behind Ariel Sharon's tactics even as I disagreed with them. Hamas' victory last week is yet another case in point.

Ponder: Ariel Sharon, right-wing hawk, gets elected on a platform of providing security. In the past, he was a huge supporter of settlements. He mocks Amram Mitzna's plans to disengage from parts of Gaza, and promises to do no such thing. He then proceeds to strengthen the walls on and near the "Green Line", against the wishes of settlers who feel they are being cut off and out of the future borders of the State of Israel. He promotes disengagement, against his own Likud party platform. He goes along with the Roadmap, strengthening Mahmoud Abbas - but keeping him weak enough that he's essentially worthless. He removes, to the sorrow of millions of Jews worldwide - whether they agreed or disagreed with the planned disengagement - all of the Jewish communities in Gaza. He is thrown out of the Likud, and immediately establishes a new party, Kadima, which would draw from the center and center-left of the political spectrum. The party is popular, and threatens to grab well over 30 seats in the upcoming elections. In Palestinian elections, Hamas handily beats Fatah, grabbing well over 50% of the seats on the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Was anything in the above paragraph a surprise? Not if you are Ariel Sharon. This was Ariel Sharon's prophetic dream...

At the height of this intifada, amidst daily suicide bombings and shootings, Sharon promised an embattled country not peace - but security. He appoints Bibi Netanyahu, his only possible threat from the right - and a weak one at that - to the Finance Minister position, and allows him to revamp the Israeli economy, with much success. He builds a coalition, not of the right, his obvious allies - but of the center-left, establishing that he is not the hawk he once was. He builds up the security wall, knowing that it will reduce terror attacks, further reducing the country's wish for a right-wing leader: With less terror attacks, there is less need for a hawk.

Sharon then continues his shift to the center: Not conceding on security, he continues targeting those terrorist masterminds he can - but accepting Abbas as a peace partner, establishing the Palestinian leadership as an entity that even the former hawk recognizes. He carries out the disengagement, further entrenching himself in the center, becoming the "hero" of the left. At the same time, the Palestinians rush into Gaza and destroy what is left, tainting their victim image in the eyes of the world. Labor, sick of being a weak partner, chucks out perennial loser Shimon Peres and inserts socialist Amir Peretz in his place. The Likud throws Sharon out, and he quickly creates a strong Kadima, including Peres; so strong, in fact, that the Israeli Knesset is expected to have less than 40 seats that are to the left. Fatah is completely unable to reign in Hamas nor control Hamas-run Gaza, and corruption accusations run amok as the Israelis focus on new elections, ignoring the Palestinians completely.

Now, imagine what happens next: Hamas establishes power, and promises not to negotiate with Israel. They promise to build an army, and possibly even close off borders with Israel. They build up a strong - but not overwhelming - force, with support from Iran and Syria, including numerous rockets. Israel watches what is happening, and react accordingly: The right-wing feels it absolutely prudent that the right be part of any coalition - and perhaps win the election. They vote for Netanyahu and the Likud in strong numbers, rather than the assorted smaller parties: Hoping to at best challenge for the Prime Minister position, at worst be the obvious choice as a coalition partner. The center-left, meanwhile, reacts to this in obvious fashion: Backing Sharon and Kadima, to make it as little reliant on the right as possible.

Israeli elections are held, with Sharon's Kadima grabbing a huge amount of seats, perhaps in the mid-to-high 30's. The Likud grabs around 25, with the right-wing and religious parties picking up another 25. The left and Arab parties have less than 40 seats, possibly in the low 30's. Sharon has cemented the strongest center-right Knesset in decades, with almost 3/4 of its members either in Kadima or to its right. Sharon warns that any and all attacks will be viewed as a declaration of war by an elected government of the Palestinian people. The moral argument of the Palestinians has been removed: They are no longer under "occupation."

Hamas threatens to carry out attacks if their demands are not meant; Sharon vows to respond with the full force of the Israeli Army in the event of an attack. The ante keeps being upped, with threats and vows of retaliation on both sides: And then all hell breaks loose. A terror attack is carried out somewhere in Israel - and Sharon keeps his promise. With over 2/3 of the Israeli government voting "Yes", he responds with full military power: Not the door-to-door combat of Operation Defensive Shield, but rather the full force of the Israel Defense Forces - planes, helicopters, and tank battalions. A government of terrorists can no longer say that the terrorists are not under their control. Rather, the attacks perpetrated on the citizens of Israel are by representatives of the Palestinian government - and cannot be accepted.

The terrorist infrastructure is completely destroyed, as are Palestinian hopes for further Israeli concessions. A new Palestinian government, devoid of terrorists, elected by a shattered people, agrees to final status talks, discarding the "right of return" and the hopes of a capital in East Jerusalem, accepting instead Gaza and substantial portions of the West Bank as their new country's borders. Ariel Sharon is hailed Israel's greatest leader since the times of the Bais Hamikdash (Temple), and Israel is finally able to live in peace.

All this, Ariel Sharon saw in his dreams. If only he had been a true prophet, he would have foreshadowed the one, fatal flaw in his plans: It requires an Ariel Sharon to carry it out. No other Israeli leader could possibly continue that which Sharon began; not Netanyahu, not Olmert, and certainly not Peres. Had Ariel Sharon forseen his own demise, and somehow been able to counteract it, we could have had a truly secure Israel, with a true peace, and with true borders. Instead, we now have a country with a dying leader, a broken "peace process," and a ruined Palestinian government that has nobody with which to deal.

All we have now are shattered dreams.

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