Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Another "Only Nixon could go to China" moment

The Head Heeb has a very long (and very interesting) essay on the Likud bloc in Israel, during which he makes this useful comment:


III. The Likud's balance sheet


Finally, there's the Gaza disengagement, which - like the peace treaty with Sadat - may be something that only a Likud prime minister could pull off. Whatever may be said about Sharon's past, I doubt that an Avoda prime minister could have rallied enough of the right to his side - and faced down the rest effectively enough - to carry the plan through. Given Sharon's residual attachment to the West Bank, he may not be the one to finish the job, but the prime minister who does finish the job will have done so because Sharon broke the ground.
It's not quite an "only Nixon could go to China" moment because Sharon isn't "going to China." He's ditching the part of the occupied territories that Israel must jettison as soon as possible. Except for the relative handful of settlers and a few ideologues in the Likud, almost nobody in Israel wants to hang on to Gaza. It's not that this is the easy part - nothing in Middle East politics is easy - but it's certainly easier than handing over the West Bank. It's not likely that Sharon could ever bring himself to do that, or even consider it - but then, a few years ago it would have been thought unlikely that Sharon could bring himself to stake his premiership on his plan to pull out of Gaza.

I don't like Ariel Sharon and I never have. Even if the Gaza pullout goes well, I will continue to think his career was, for the most part, extremely negative for Israe. However, if and when Israel finally does what it ultimately must do, which is to withdraw as much as it can from the West Bank, I imagine that I will find myself compelled to give much of the credit to Sharon. I only hope it won't happen too late.
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