Who’ll save Sharon?

ARIEL Sharon of Israel may have overplayed his hand when he sacked ministers from the Shinui party, a key member of the coalition government. What looked like a comfortable political future for the Israeli leader until some days ago now appears perilously uncertain thanks to the hasty step. It may be curtains for the hardline Likud party prime minister, if he fails to rope in the opposition Labour party into his coalition. Sharon’s party has only 40 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

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Published: Fri 3 Dec 2004, 11:42 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:12 AM

Even if the Labour agrees to offer a helping hand to Sharon’s shaky government and joins the coalition, it would like to have its pound of flesh. The left-leaning Labour would not be comfortable with the role of playing second fiddle to the Likud. The party, if it joins the coalition, is almost certain to push its own agenda. The hardline governing party, Likud, in which Sharon faces considerable opposition from rivals like former PM Netanyahu, is already a divided house. If the Labour opts to stay out of the coalition, the Sharon government is certain to come down. And Israelis will be looking at an early general election — two years ahead of the schedule.

But regardless of what happens in occupied Jerusalem and who gets to lead the Israelis, the direction and policies of the Jewish state are not going to undergo any dramatic changes. Whether it is the rabid-right Likud or so-called socialist Labour, Israel will continue to be guided by its fundamentally flawed vision. What matters to us and the people of Middle East is what happens to Israel’s much-hyped Gaza withdrawal plan. If Sharon is booted out, will the Gaza plan follow him into oblivion?

We wouldn’t bet on it. Because, notwithstanding the opposition from within the Israeli establishment and the governing Likud party, majority of the Israelis seem to favour the Gaza disengagement. It is the only exit strategy that allows Israel to withdraw without hurting its self-respect and ego. The Israeli hawks as well as the Western media may be projecting the withdrawal as a major concession to the Palestinians but it is a rarely acknowledged fact that the Gaza withdrawal is a face-saver for Sharon and the Jewish state.

By withdrawing from certain parts of Gaza and keeping rest of the occupied territories with itself, the Israelis would rid themselves of the troublesome Palestinian attacks. At the same time, they would be in a better position to manage what they have without bleeding themselves to death. The Gaza withdrawal plan is here to stay, for it ensures Israel’s own safe passage.

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