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Politics in Israel
Sharon in a dead end street

Article added on November 5, 2002
 
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon currently leads a minority government which controls only 55 of the 120 Knesset seats after the last Labor ministers pulled out of his coalition. Therefore, he tried to get the support of Avigdor Lieberman's and Benny Elon's seven members of the National Union faction. It would not have been the first time that a narrow majority would have governed Israel. However, many Likud members were inclined to go for re-elections since polls indicated that the party would win additional seats.
 
One of Israel's main political problems of the 19 months of the Likud-Labor coalition was that their was no credible opposition, no alternative to the government in place. Labor will face tough times in a re-election. Why go for the "copy", Ben-Eliezer, when you can get the "real thing", Sharon? The other part of the electorate, seeking a constructive peace policy, was alienated by Labor's role played in the coalition government.
 
Not only Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer but also Shimon Peres has lost his credibility. Sharon made Peres his Minister of Foreign Affairs because he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Peres was the ideal fig leaf for Sharon's government. Peres did not do anything against being misused for Sharon's bulldozer policies. He even became a defender and willing executioner of doubtful cabinet decisions.
 
Ben-Eliezer and Labor do not become more credible with their decision to step down on October 30, 2002, because of some $150 million of settlement funding. There have been much stronger and more serious reasons in the past to step down. It took Ben-Eliezer, Peres and others 19 months to realize that Sharon has rushed into a dead end street.
 
This of course holds even more true for Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer who even instigated inexcusable policies. He carried out criminal reprisal actions, he did not prevent the expansion of illegal settlements and he showed pride in Labor's role in the construction of the separation fence which largely marks the border between Israel and a possible future Palestinian state. Much of what he did is unworthy of a democratic minister.
 
Yossi Beilin, a key architect of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords and Minister of Justice from July 1999 to March 2001 (unsuccessfully) launched a new political movement, Shahar, in June 2002 as a protest against the role of the Labor party ministers in Sharon's government. By the way, as early as February 2001, when Labor discussed a grand coalition with the Likud, he warned his party friends that Sharon would use Labor as a fig leaf. The daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rabin, who was killed by a fanatic in the mid-1990s, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, took her consequences and resigned as Vice-Minister of Defense in July 2002.
 
As for Sharon and Arafat, both belong behind bars, of either a prison or a mental institution. What is the alternative to their policies? Mutual cooperation and trust. Only if Israel does not (as under Sharon) systematically destroy Palestine's infrastructure and undermine its economic future, but on the contrary encourages the development of a prospering country with a functioning market economy, their will be peace. Only in a situation in which a majority of Palestinians have more to lose than to win from confrontation, there will be a stable and democratic Palestine.
 
Currently, most Palestinians live under or just around the poverty level in an atmosphere of terror and corruption, of arbitrary use of power by Israel and the Palestinian authorities. The present situation with a gigantic unemployment rate nurtures anger, hate and more terror. Palestine needs credible and able leaders who accept transparent political and economic structures, a parliament which plays a real role and a truly independent judiciary system which ensures the order of law. All this will encourage both local and  foreign investments in Palestine, lead to a path of growth and ensure peace in the long run.
 
Unfortunately, the future looks grim because polls indicate that the dissolution of the Knesset announced today November 5, 2002 will increase the support support for Sharon's Likud in the early elections called for in early February 2002 [correction: January 28, 2002]. Sharon's failed attempt to create a right-wing coalition together with the right-wing National Union faction, which among others demanded renouncing the Oslo Accords, is not very promising either.
 
Furthermore, Sharon's biggest rival within the Likud party, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, presents himself as a man even less compromising with the Palestinians. He only accepted the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs on the condition that early elections were called. From his hawkish military and foreign policy positions, one cannot expect positive effects on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His economic advice to Sharon to lower taxes and privatize government companies in order to stimulate the economy goes in the right direction. However, the idea behind this was an excuse not to join Sharon's government in order to have a better position to win the Likud primary which could well decide who will become Israel's next Prime Minister.
 
As for Shaul Mofaz, a general who only resigned four months ago and was appointed Defense Minister, he is like Sharon and Netanyahu a man who believes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved by force, that terrorism can be eradicated. Mofaz was in favor to declaring the Palestinian Authority an enemy and pushing Yasser Arafat into exile. There is nobody in the government anymore to counterbalance the three hawks Sharon, Netanyahu and Mofaz.
 
Click here for the biographies of Sharon, Peres, Barak and Arafat.

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