The microphone was placed on the left side of the stage, so that the spectacle of the microphone snatchers of yesteryear - with the cry of "Who is in favor of liquidating terrorism?" - wouldn't be repeated. The chairs in the Mann Auditorium were also screwed strongly into the floor, so that the furniture would not be able to be hurled about, as in the days of Gaston Malka. But the spirit was the same spirit, only the characters have switched roles. Ariel Sharon entered the hall as king of Israel, as Mr. One Million Votes, but left as a whipped functionary.
The vote, which ostensibly focused on partnership with Labor, yes or no, recalled a well-known Yiddish saying: Hit the mother-in-law instead of hitting your wife. So they hit Labor but meant the disengagement plan. Sharon returned to his ranch as a hobbled king of Israel, but full of hints that nothing is over yet and that the day for settling accounts will surely come.
The Likud convention is a gloomy attempt to revive the Bolshevist bodies of days of yore, with the party - the politburo, the secretariat or the party bureau - dictating to the prime minister, who was elected in general elections, the narrow party agenda. Nowadays the party convention in the free world has one and only one role: to choose the candidate for prime minister based on his personal and political criteria and on his qualifications to lead the country. From the moment the candidate receives the confidence of the people in the voting booth, he is the chief operating officer and lays down the policy for which the people elected him. He remains in power until the end of his term of office, or as long as he has a majority in the Knesset.
The effort to torpedo the prime minister's initiative by means of the Likud convention is an undemocratic and immoral act, and in my view also flagrantly unconstitutional. The three interventions by the convention in an attempt to foist on Sharon a policy that is the opposite of that for which the majority of the nation elected him is to run roughshod over orderly government and a pathway to anarchy.
If the Likud Central Committee thinks that Sharon is going for the vision of Greater Israel, where was it during the election campaign, when the slogan that Sharon would bring peace was plastered on every wall? What were they thinking when Sharon spoke about "painful concessions"? That he would go to the dentist? And why were they silent when Sharon undertook to form a unity government? Did they think that this committed only Arthur Finkelstein, the strategic adviser? Sharon doubled the strength of the Likud because the voters believed that he was the only person who could do what he promised.
Sharon the commander-in-chief reached the conclusion that terrorism will not be eradicated by means of force. Sharon the statesman understood that the strongest of the great powers divided the world into good guys and bad guys, and that we have to make our contribution to terminate the conflict as George Bush wants, because the alternative is a solution that will be imposed on Israel. As manager of the country, he realized that our security, political and economic situation demands an "act," namely the start of disengagement from the territories - the Gaza Strip and its settlements first. "It was hard for me to accept this path, but responsible leadership obliges difficult decisions," Sharon said.
Sharon has crossed the point of no return, both in his words and his deeds. He has spoke about a future of two states for the two nations, about the demographic danger, about the unacceptability of ruling another people. Not only has he spoken, he also pushed through a decision in the cabinet and issued guidelines for deploying to execute the policy already eight months ago. The defense establishment is ready to evacuate settlements on two weeks' notice. "A responsible leadership must place the good of the state before every other consideration, and this is one of those moments," Sharon reiterated.
What happened on Wednesday was an attempt to carry out a targeted assassination of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. The continuation will undoubtedly come in the form of more frequent preemptive maneuvers. But Sharon does not have to be deterred, because a massive majority of the nation, including many Likud voters, supports his move. He must carry on with his efforts and ensure the majority for his move in any form, under any threat and with whatever governmental composition he can find. When a minority of zealots in the Likud Central Committee wants to condemn an entire country to international isolation and to political, economic, social and military death, we feel that we must say to Ariel Sharon: Just don't give up.
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