Saturday, January 11, 2003

Put off by Sharon’s suspected corruption?
Last night on Israel TV channel 2, top Israeli pollster Mina Tzemach gave her analysis about the Likud’s situation. Their problem, she says, is the new voters. Not the diehard Likud voters, who will vote Likud anyway, but the new ones that have come from the left or from the religious Shas. I’m not sure she’s right. I don’t think people who came from the left necessarily think Arik Sharon is a saint and therefore will not necessarily be disappointed.

Take me for instance. I don’t find the question of whether Sharon can mortgage his farm or not the interesting question. The interesting question is how he came to have a spacious private farm leased from the Israel Lands Administration in the first place.

I wasn’t born yesterday. I remember Sharon. I haven’t forgotten him as Minister of Agriculture. My beloved middle school teacher had to wait patiently in Haifa for many years before her village in the Galilee was built, because he had sent all the bulldozers to build settlements in the territories first. I haven’t forgotten him as Minister of Housing, when he hastily erected badly planned slum dwellings in shoddily constructed caravans for hundreds of thousands of new immigrants who were pouring in. Needless to say, these caravan towns soon became crime ridden and drug infested and those who were able fled, while the poorest and the uneducated were trapped. I haven’t forgotten his thuggish behavior in Likud Party conferences, either.

And of course, I haven’t forgotten him as Defense Minister and architect of the Lebanon war. His part in the build up that ultimately led to the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is also fresh in my mind.

I won’t be surprised if Sharon turns out to be corrupt. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.

I didn’t vote for Sharon when he was up against Barak in February 2001 and I was very worried when he was elected, given his track record. But he has surprised me in his ability to handle this war with a restraint we didn’t know he had in him.

As I see it, the “instant” solutions suggested by both the far right (harsher measures against the Palestinians), and those remaining in the left (go back to negotiating with Arafat and implement a unilateral separation) are dangerous and hysterical. I think what we need now, is to internalize that there are no instant solutions and that it is imperative for us to show the Palestinians that on one hand, we are strong, resilient and determined and that we can’t be broken by terrorism, and on the other hand, we are not planning to annihilate them, and are ready to make peace and compromise with them, if they give us a chance. This requires patience and forbearance, qualities neither the far right nor the left seem to possess. Sharon, surprisingly enough, despite his track record and despite his age (or maybe because of it) does seem to be in possession of these qualities. I don’t know about his ability to make peace, but we’re not there yet. When the time is ripe for the difficult compromises he talks about, if he doesn’t come through, he will have to go.

I would rather it be someone else and I would rather it be the foreign policy platform offered by Shinui, which is more to my liking, but without the ranting figurehead and the anti-religious slant (not because I don’t agree with it, but because now is the time for unity). But there it is. These are the options. As I see it, what we need is a strong Likud that will be a powerful leader of a moderate coalition. But maybe I’m wrong. Who knows?

In this Friday’s Maariv, Ben-Dror Yemini (Hebrew) explains that Mitzna being elected is the worst thing that could happen to Arafat right now, and he’s giving out subtle messages, through an advisor, that he’d like Mitzna to be elected, so as to make sure he isn’t.

The Frog has been discussing the fact that neither left nor right in Israel have been very good at keeping to the law, and that includes Amram Mitzna’s “alleged back-handers from Haifa property developers”.

We’re back to basics. What matters is not who is more likeable, who looks better on TV or who is not being investigated by the police, but what they’re going to do if elected.

If I have to hold my nose while putting the envelope in the ballot, so be it. It won’t be the first time.