Ariel Sharon has often found himself in situations in which he had to prove he was not guilty. In various circumstances, some of them perhaps of his own making, his conduct gave rise to complaints and forced him to face reviews by quasi-judicial or judicial panels. In some cases, Sharon managed to escape official indictments, while in others he had to account for his actions.
But this track record never prevented him from entangling himself later with controversial behavior that forced him repeatedly to defend himself against allegations and cast him as the target of false accusations.
The only doubt currently raised about Sharon concerns his declared intention to implement the road map.
It appears that his main focus is to avoid being found guilty by Israeli and international public opinion of thwarting the American initiative, while, in fact, his true intention is to do just that.
This suspicion is not based on whim, but rather on Sharon's political decisions: the composition of the government he has formed, the contradictions in his public statements about the future of the territories, the tacit understandings he has with the settlers.
The presumption of innocence is on his side: He will have every opportunity in the near future to prove that this time the suspicions against him are false.
In this case, his conduct will not be scrutinized by a judicial tribunal but by the general public and primarily by the president of the United States. This is one authority whose judgment Sharon actually fears. His decision on Friday to release a statement endorsing the road map and promising to put it before the government for approval is a positive step that attests to the weightiness of the judge to which Sharon has to answer in this round. It can only be hoped that this decision does not conceal any secret agenda and that it will not be followed by moves that effectively torpedo it.
In their desire to appease the right-wingers in the government, Sharon's confidants said this weekend that his consent to bringing the road map to the cabinet for approval is designed to embarrass the Palestinian Authority, as it will force the latter to prove its good will and its ability to stop terrorism and disarm the various armed groups. This is indeed a justified demand, which is explicitly stated in the road map, but it is dishonest to pretend that the implementation of this requirement depends entirely on the Palestinian leadership. There is a linkage between Palestinian terror and Israel's behavior.
If Sharon honestly wants to implement the road map, he must issue the Israel Defense Forces new guidelines that would enhance the chances of calming the violence in the region.
The first step toward defusing the armed conflict is to accept the cease-fire proposal (hudna). Granted, this step represents a risk about which the IDF has warned: The terror organizations are liable to use the respite in order to rearm, and thus pull the rug from under the achievements of the Israeli armed forces in the last year and increase the threat to the security of Israeli civilians. Still, there is no other practical way to start slowing the bloody spiral of violence.
Sharon was busy warding off allegations about his conduct in the village of Qibiya in 1953, in the al-Bureij refugee camp in Gaza, in Operation Kinneret in 1955, in Qalqilya and at the Mitla Pass in 1956, on the northern border in the early 1960s, during the relocation of the Bedouin from the Rafah area, in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 (which he answered at the Kahan Commission hearings), with prime minister Menachem Begin during the war in Lebanon, and in a long line of other cases in which his personal behavior was the subject of inquiries by the state comptroller, the police and the attorney general.
The fact that this syndrome still exists today leaves us no choice but to question Sharon's sincerity about his professed intention to implement the road map.
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