3/18/2002

 

Sharon is Getting What He Wanted

 

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has deliberately tried to create the current situation between Israel and the Palestinians, and he has succeeded.

 

Normally I don’t pay much attention to the situation there because it seems like an endless vicious cycle. But Sharon’s actions deserve special attention.

 

Back in September of 2000, when then Prime Minister Barak  was pursuing very productive peace negotiations, Sharon must have gotten worried that it might actually succeed. My guess is he either didn’t like the concessions being considered, or he would rather press for all out war and obliterate the Palestinians, as if that would really solve anything or lead to peace in the area.

 

So Sharon did something to provoke a violent reaction from the Palestinians, starting a new cycle of violence and ending the peace negotiations. He visited one of the holy sites that is hotly contested. There was nothing illegal or against restrictions about his visit. He picked an action that he could rationalize as justified. But it was also clear that the visit would provoke a reaction. He even said himself that he did it in order to assert Israeli sovereignty over a site that Barak seemed willing to compromise on. The police chief of Jerusalem and the head of Israel’s internal security even discussed, days before the visit, the trouble that would come from it. Then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright blamed Sharon for the tensions that followed. Sharon and his apologists have tried to dismiss that he was intentionally provoking the Palestinians and blame it on Yasser Arafat, but it is clear that the reaction was predictable.

 

The Palestinians are, of course, guilty of taking the bait. Both sides are guilty of playing the endless game of retaliation. Arafat is correctly characterized as either leading the Palestinian violence or being irrelevant. Being irrelevant is not likely since he would soon be swept aside by other Palestinian leadership. He is also guilty of bad faith in not accepting the best proposal put forward yet, when the negotiations with Barak were at their peak.

 

But Sharon’s actions, going out of his way to disrupt the possible peace process, are notable.

 

Shortly afterward elections for leadership came up. Guess who was running? Sharon. He ran on a platform of being tough on the Palestinians (now that they were back in a cycle of violence) and the Israelis bought it. The same choice they made a few years back when they elected Netanyahu’s hard line over a more peace oriented approach, and it didn’t accomplish anything then either. Sharon has since taken every step he could to escalate the violence, assisted of course by the Palestinians doing the same. And look at the result. “You shall know them by their fruit.”, right? I don’t know if there is a hell, but if there is I shudder to think of the place waiting for him.

 

The ray of good news is that maybe the Israelis are beginning to see this too. A recent poll shows that 53 percent are dissatisfied with Sharon’s first year in office, and 61 percent are dissatisfied with his efforts to improve Israel’s security. Maybe they’re beginning to feel that endless escalating violence is, predictably, only making things worse.