Thursday, January 12, 2006

postscript

What I didn't mention in my last post, and might turn out to be Sharon's most important legacy, is what he did just a few weeks before his stroke: his decision to split the Likud and start a new party, Kadima. Many considered it a one-man show, and it might still disintegrate - this is politics after all - but at the moment it looks posed to win the next elections. The new party is mainstream Israel: rightwing, deeply ethnocentric, but not zealously ideological. It does not have the fundemantilst elements of the Likud. It is far less attached to the West Bank settlments than the Likud, and is much more pragmatic. This move has 'corrected' the Israeli political map, since the Likud was too right wing for most of its voters, and Labour has failed to present a political alternative since 2000. The consistuency of the new party is a large section of the Israeli public, middle-class and secular or not very religious, who consider themselves centre or right wing. They supported the Gaza pull-out and most of them would back a peace agreement on the lines of the Clinton/Geneva proposal - if it ever came to it. With Sharon I am sure it would not have come to it. But I think that his successors will not be as averse to negotiation as he was. So in a sense, forming this new party and then leaving politics was perhaps Sharon's best service.

Don't get me wrong: I am far from being enthusiastic about this new party. And I don't share the view that the settlers are the problem. They are one aspect of the problem, often a very ugly aspect, but the problem is the occupation and the ethnocentric mentality which stand at the heart of this confict. The new party is a very good expression of this mentality.

I also dislike the focus on political agreement as an ultimate solution. A peace agreement would be a good start, but whatever form it takes, it would still leave behind many many issues unresolved. Some of these issues are symbolic and emotional, others are economic (the gap between the two economies could not be bigger).

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