How low can you go?
The portrayal of Labor as joining the government out of some uncontrollable urge is disconcerting, to say the least. Sharon is the one who needs Labor if he wants to get anything done - because he doesn't have a majority in his own government and his own party to carry out the disengagement plan.
If I weren't so hesitant about using undiplomatic language in a newspaper, I would call this piece "Ego-maniacs - get lost!" At a time when the deteriorating global standing of this country calls for some tough decision-making, the current government, to the glee of some of its members, is steadily losing the power to make such decisions.
Sharon, who led the Likud to a landslide victory in the elections, is suddenly discovering that with all his dramatic efforts to pull the country out of the bog of occupation, he has lost control of his party. The specter of a handful of fanatics intent on dictating the national agenda and driving Israel to collective suicide should send shivers down the spines of all supporters of disengagement.
The ill winds are blowing mainly from the Likud camp. This is the epicenter of the crisis and the source of all the taunts, insults and backbiting. Some of these guys are so worried about losing their portfolio you'd think it was part of their bodies. Some of them are playing a double game - voting for disengagement but not planning to support its implementation. Some of them have remembered all of a sudden that they want the ultra-Orthodox to be in the government, the better to wreck things for Peres, or alternately, they want Shinui out.
But Peres himself has no objection to United Torah Judaism being part of a unity government. "If Shinui got along with the NRP, it'll manage with UTJ," he says. The battle of the Likud ministers and MKs against the establishment of a unity government, for totally egocentric reasons, makes you wonder: How low can you go? Where, oh where, has that thing called national responsibility gone? What ever happened to the days when Gahal leaders Menachem Begin and Yosef Sapir could sit for two whole years in a "national unity government," without portfolios or petty nit-picking?
The portrayal of Labor as joining the government out of some uncontrollable urge is disconcerting, to say the least. Sharon is the one who needs Labor if he wants to get anything done - because he doesn't have a majority in his own government and his own party to carry out the disengagement plan. The wild insurgence of some Likud activists, who are sitting in the Knesset thanks to him, has not left him much choice. The election threat is not realistic anymore. Sharon could end up in a match against Bibi with a cheering section of 61 anti-disengagement MKs. And if that happens, it's good-bye elections, good-bye Sharon and hello Netanyahu. The man who was kicked out of office by a sweeping majority the likes of which Israel has never known, will be back in the roost.
As the political cauldron bubbles with gossip, backbiting, underhanded maneuvers, politicians busy saving their own asses, and other delights of running a nation, Israel has become a target of international condemnation and ostracism on all issues and in all languages. It has been branded a county that practices apartheid, violates human rights, and kills children and cripples in wheelchairs.
As the demographic threat slowly becomes a reality, immigration to Israel has all but ground to a halt. Jews in distress from South Africa and Argentina have turned up their noses at settling here, and the Russians, too, prefer Europe and America. Is it worth losing these potential immigrants to save the hides of a few thousand settlers, in whose defense some of our finest soldiers are being killed?
Peres and Sharon have met on more occasions than we know of, and the relationship hasn't always been trusting. But this time, Peres is convinced Sharon realizes Israel will never be secure as long as 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza are kept hostage by a few thousand settlers. He believes Sharon is serious about disengagement and evacuating the settlements. But he also knows Sharon can't do it without a unity government that includes Labor.
Peres, global-minded as always, says there are three statistics that matter in the Middle East today: It is home to 8 percent of the world's population; it accounts for 2 percent of the world's economy; and it is responsible for 65 percent of the world's terrorism. We cannot afford to reach the point where the world jumps on us for not helping to drain the swamp.
The media are busy with trivia: who's screwing whom, who's outfoxing whom. But Sharon, acting on the wishes of the Israeli public, is determined to move ahead. He needs Labor not only to insure himself a political majority but for international credibility. A country that has lost so much of its luster since aspiring to be a light unto the nations needs more than a bunch of clowns to regain a semblance of resolve and self-respect.