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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

November 06, 2002

Sharon's Choice

This Slate article rounds up various perspectives on the political turmoil in Israel. There is this to be said, however, a democracy is often in political termoil but it sure beats an imposed governmental view and position.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dissolved the Israeli parliament Tuesday and called an early election, which is expected to take place Jan. 28, 2003. The Jerusalem Post observed, "The dramatic developments throw Israel into a turbulent election campaign at a time when the nation is facing severe problems—the 2-year-old conflict with the Palestinians, a deepening economic crisis and the possibility of an Iraqi attack on Israel in the event of US strike against Saddam Hussein." Ha'aretz welcomed "the end of a terrible government," declaring, "Despite the heavy price that a political crisis will exact and the problematic timing of the election, the collapse of the outgoing government can only be welcomed. It will be remembered as one of the worst governments in Israel's history."

Last Wednesday, the Labor Party withdrew from the government of national unity in part, according to commentators, to boost former Foreign Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's chances in the party's leadership election, scheduled for Nov. 19. Sharon spent a week trying to form a narrow coalition with nationalist parties but in the end declared that he could not submit to the right-wingers' "blackmail." According to the Financial Times, the National Union-Yisrael Beitenu Party "had demanded that he ditch Washington's 'road map' towards Middle East peace and reject support for a Palestinian state." Sharon told a press conference Tuesday, "Elections are the last thing this country needs right now."

Ma'ariv praised Sharon for standing up to the right: "The prime minister will benefit on two counts: He will be remembered as someone who chose not to be dragged into a period of instability and repeated surrender to political blackmail; and as a result, it is very possible that he will enjoy renewed trust from Likud members in his ability to secure another term as Prime Minister." Still, the Israeli business daily Globes said that by calling a snap election, "Sharon set Israel's political agenda in accordance with his political needs." The op-ed claimed the election's timing presented "substantial political advantages" to the prime minister. If, as expected, one of Ben-Eliezer's dovish rivals becomes Labor Party leader, they will only have 90 days to reorganize the party and present a "worthy alternative program to the one Sharon has ready."