Wednesday, August 31, 2005

KICing, Pinching and Pulling Hair

Like kids squabbling over a toy in the sand pit, Bibi and Arik (and their buddies) are behaving like only good (?) Israeli politicians can. Like two party leaders in two opposite corners of the forever elastic Zionist political spectrum, the two Likudniks are throwing sand in the eyes of the other and KIC-ing up and dreaming up every type of personal and professional insult possible. And when they take a few minutes for a diaper change and a snack of milk and cookies, they have plenty of sand pit buddies to maintain the destruction of the other sides' majestic sand castles.

But that's Israel for you. Political careers like Israeli life in general can be creative and strong one moment and seemingly sinking and crumbling the next.

One of the KIC educational policies is that my students need to have an understanding of the Israeli political sand pit before they can understand how Israel (and Israelis) go about trying to make peace and bring security. This last week of Likud bickering makes understanding Israel just a little trickier.

Look at all the permutations. Sharon behind Netanyahu among Likud members but ahead among Likud voters and the public. Peres losing in the polls against Sharon but ahead of Bibi. And then there's the possibility of the Sharon lone ranger scenario. Could a new Sharon-led party attract the Israeli center?

It certainly is peculiar that a ruling party is on the verge of deposing its widely popular leader. Even stranger is their willingness to 'risk losing their Volvos' for what they see as the good of the country. Maybe all this shows some selfless morality on behalf of the Likud rebels - and then again...

Frankly, all this worry about Likud leadership drags us away from where our focus should be. I am astounded (though not at all surprised) by Israel's apparent weakness in the face of the clear return (?) to terror by Palestinian elements since Disengagement. Where is the Arik Sharon who promised harsh measures if terror 'returned' after Israel's withdrawal? There have been rockets at Sderot, shootings at IDF forces even as they continue the Disengagement process, the murder of my father-in-law's cousin in the Old City, firebombing on the Gush Etzion Road and the homicide bombing in Beer Sheva. Where is Israel's response? Are we waiting for another Sbarro, Dolphinarium, Maxim or many bus horrors? Why do we always wait?

I know Sharon is about to be lauded with praise at the upcoming UN gathering and maybe he deserves it - at least as far as courage goes, Sharon has displayed a great deal, even in the face of much internal resistance. And yet, courage must be shown in all aspects of diplomacy and leadership. Sure Abbas needs time, but time is of the essence and delay costs lives - Israeli and Palestinian. Now that we have begun (what I see as) an unstoppable process of Disengagement from the Palestinian sand pit, the PA must be encouraged - no, forced - to show some reciprocity. That is what Israelis want to see most.

Nonetheless, rather than taking such action as required by the Road Map, the Palestinians are spending their time and money preparing their next UN campaign - to stop UN confirmation of an end to Israeli occupation in Gaza and to get the Security Fence condemned at the UN Security Council. Maybe a few more forthright court decisions like this one would help persuade the PA leadership to clean up its act. The Bush Admnistration should avoid putting its hands in the broth in this case. Justice should be allowed to take its course.

If Sharon wants a third term and polls suggest he could well achieve that, then he would be better advised to ignore the Likud tantrums and rather keep to one of those many promises that he made. Why? Because when it comes down to it, the non-voters may well decide his future if he allows them to remain untouched by PA or Israeli hand. We already know what kind of sand pit they are developing and Israelis know how much their sand stings the eyes.

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