Under pressure, Sharon presses harder
These are the first elections that Sharon is approaching from the Prime Minister's Office. Like his partner, Shaul Mofaz, he has always been the Oliver Twist of Israeli politics, both always wanting more. Now he wants a little more of the same, and if possible, to leave something behind for the children.
One of the TV channels last weekend ran movies with and about Charlie Chaplin for a day and a half and in one segment, he was seen taking part in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike competition. He came in third.
Arik Sharon - young "Arik," held in awe by combat soldiers, not the elderly "Ariel" - was once one of the high profile trademarks in Israel, a lot less funny than Charlie but like him, the image of his era.
Charlie turned into Sir Charles and Arik into Ariel. Meanwhile, new imitators have shown up: Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and Baruch Marzel, and in the eyes of the voters in the look-alike competition, how shameful, they look a lot more like the original than the original.
These are the first elections that Sharon is approaching from the Prime Minister's Office. Like his partner, Shaul Mofaz, he has always been the Oliver Twist of Israeli politics, both always wanting more.
Now he wants a little more of the same, and if possible, to leave something behind for the children; but this time it will be difficult for him to blame everything, as he did up to two years ago, on the prime minister.
And since the Sharon look-alikes are flanking him on the right, using the old Sharonisms about deteriorating security, he's pressured, so he pressures, and announces that in consultation with Mofaz they agreed the IDF "will apply more pressure" on the Palestinian terrorists.
The implication of that statement is that it's not Sharon who failed, heaven forbid, nor the savior he pulled out of the diapers of the cooling-off period to become defense minister, but that clumsy, feeble organization of uniformed soldiers who have to be pushed into action.
To achieve his political goals, Sharon slanders not only the chief of staff, but also even his personal favorite, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski of the Central Command, responsible for the district where the attack on Otniel took place.
It's the well-known method in which "the elevator stops two floors below me" - finding a senior-level official to blame but someone distant enough from the top level.
Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz used to do it to the corps commanders, brigadiers like Shlomo Oren in the friendly fire incident involving Duvdevan soldiers, and Zvi Gendelman in the matter of the Hermon kidnappings. Sharon did it to Mofaz as chief of staff and now he's focused on a deputy minister in the Likud and the operational command levels of the army. The state's at his command and he's dressing up as the state comptroller.
The central command has three main corps engaged on ongoing combat with terrorism - the Samaria corps, headed by Gershon "Jerry" Yitzhak; the Judea corps, headed by Amos Ben-Avraham; and the Jordan Valley corps in the Jericho and eastern mountain ridge areas, headed by Udi Shani. Most of the work falls on Jerry's corps, because Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah, Tul Karm and Qalqiliya manufacture and export all of the terror, whether directly or indirectly.
Ben-Avraham's corps, now made up of conscripts and the largest in the army, is in the Bethlehem and Hebron areas. Shani's corps, whose primary purpose is control over the armor in a full-scale war, has also become an important element in the war on terror because the paratroopers' and Golani successes in Jerry's corps in Nablus to the west, has channeled the attacks eastward to the Jordan Valley and north to Beit She'an.
In each of the last four months there have been, on average, 700 ambushes, observation postings, patrols, and undercover operations and another 750 surprise checkpoints in addition to the large operations and the high-profile arrests. That has obstructed movement of bombs and bombers into Israel, but the Palestinian alternative - light arms attacks, such as in Hebron and Otniel, creates no fewer fatalities and the same sized headlines.
On its own, and with the constraints of politics both local and international, the IDF cannot do any more right now. Sharon and Mofaz are waving the pressure gun, but its chambers are empty. The burden is on a minority - skilled but tired - of conscripts, and any increase in the operational levels will require massive call-ups of bitter reservists who could conduct their own retaliatory raids at the ballot box.