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January 04, 2006

Sharon's stroke is bad news for peace

I suspect that Ariel Sharon's stroke will be a major setback for the cause of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. While I'm no expert on Israeli politics, I suspect that Sharon was the only Israeli leader with the credibility on both the right and the left to lead the effort to renounce the concept of "greater Israel" and convince the Israelis to disengage from the Palestinians and withdraw from the occupied territories. Benjamin Netanyahu, Sharon's rival on the right, opposed Sharon's efforts to withdraw from Gaza (or so I recall). While the Labor party supported this effort, on their own, they are not strong enough to command a majority.

Sharon alone, because of his history of strongly supporting the settlers, was the only Israeli politician who could create a consensus to disengage from the Palestinians and retreat behind a frontier wall. Just as Nixon, because of his strong anti-communist credentials, could reverse US policy and achieve detente with China, Sharon was able to bring about an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and force the physical removal of Israeli settlers. If Sharon is removed from the scene, it is unclear whether anyone else is up to the task.

On the other hand, a prolonged period of Israeli paralysis may buy the Palestinians time to try to create some political order on their side of the barrier wall.

Finally, as decision day approaches for any possibility of preemptive attacks upon Iran to derail their nuclear weapons program, will Sharon's death or incapacitation prevent the Israeli government from taking bold action to preserve their countries continued existence? If not, this could be the most serious fallout (to use an unfortunate phrase) from Sharon's medical mishaps.

January 4, 2006 at 09:31 PM | Permalink


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I am very sad about Sharon. I was hopeful that he would find a way, or force his way, to a better Middle East. Maybe the next Israeli Prime Minister will surprise us with a combination of strength and the desire to make compromises for peace, but I am skeptical …… and I am sad.

Posted by: BA | Jan 5, 2006 5:32:53 PM

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