Friday, March 24, 2006

As Israel Votes, Sharon's Vision Is Taking Hold

'Disengagement' Becomes The Best Hope for Security For Many Weary of Violence

The WSJ has an article [pay site] agreeing the viewpoint I see taking hold in Israel. They are going to vote for Sharon's vision. Olmert can carry out Sharon's policies without the legacy of Sharon's past to hurt him. Sharon turns out to be the "Moses" that led them to the top of the mountain, but did not survive to lead them into the valley below. The fact that Hamas is now in control keeps the Israeli left from pushing for a "negotiation" with the Pals. Israeli voters prepare to go to the polls on Tuesday, Mr. Sharon's controversial vision for Israel has done more than survive. Kadima, the political party he created just weeks before suffering a brain hemorrhage, may score a sweeping victory, according to polls. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, previously Mr. Sharon's little-noticed deputy, is poised to ride Mr. Sharon's legacy to the prime minister's office.

That could mean important changes in Israeli policies, especially concerning relations with the Palestinians. And it could present new challenges for the U.S. and Europe when it comes to Middle East peacemaking. Under the 60-year-old Mr. Olmert's surprisingly assertive leadership, Kadima is pushing forward Mr. Sharon's ideas for reshaping Israel's future faster and more forcefully than Mr. Sharon did.

The party, whose name means "forward" in Hebrew, has embraced an idea that just a few years ago was so controversial few Israeli politicians spoke openly about its full implications for Israelis, Palestinians and the international community. Dubbed "disengagement," the idea is straightforward: Israel can't expect to negotiate a deal with the Palestinians or to crush them militarily, so it must separate from them by drawing its own borders based on what's best for Israel.

.........A few analysts argue disengagement might lead in the end to a better solution for all sides. It would begin to roll back settlement expansion that has inflamed Palestinians for years. And if Hamas, the militant group swept to power in recent Palestinian elections, focuses more attention on Palestinians and less on attacking Israel, both sides could wind up curtailing the activities most provocative to the other. "You'll have two parallel processes," says Asher Susser, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. "Maybe in the end a better result emerges than you could get through negotiations."

Many predicted that Kadima -- which Mr. Sharon formed by luring high-profile politicians from both the left-leaning Labor and right-leaning Likud parties -- would crumble without Mr. Sharon's forceful and popular personality at the helm. After Mr. Sharon's stroke, Mr. Olmert and a team of Mr. Sharon's longtime advisers held the party together by twisting arms behind the scenes and laying out the disengagement vision with a clarity and forcefulness Mr. Sharon himself never dared.

"Olmert has taken it much, much further than Sharon," said Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

.....But whatever the outcome, the appeal of separation isn't likely to evaporate with a Hamas-led government representing the Palestinians and an Israeli public tired of dealing with an occupation.


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