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The Israeli left has every reason in the world to suspect Ariel Sharon. For it is now crystal clear: Sharon is no Charles de Gaulle. Nor is he a Yitzhak Rabin. He did not undergo any dramatic ideological upheaval and did not turn his back on his past. Therefore Sharon will not bring peace. Nor will he end the occupation. By no means will he bring Israel back to the 1967 borders. Ariel Sharon will not be the person who realizes the dream of the Israeli peace movement.

The Jewish right also has every reason in the world to suspect Ariel Sharon. For it is now crystal clear: Sharon is no Churchill. Nor is he a Yitzhak Shamir. He is not a revisionist and not a messianist and not a zealot. Therefore Sharon will not preserve the entirety of the Land of Israel. He will evacuate territory and will uproot settlements. He will not be the person who preserves the dream of the Jewish nationalism.

The Labor Party has every reason in the world to suspect Ariel Sharon. For it is now crystal clear: Sharon is not a true partner. Since he is motivated by the supreme principle of his own survival, he is prepared to swap partners without any undue heartache. No, the elderly Sharon does not harbor a passion for political slaughter. He lacks malice for its own sake. But he does have the survival will of a primeval animal. He has an uninhibited willingness to do what it takes to reach the objective. Therefore the Labor Party has no reason to trust him. If it is not careful, it is most certainly liable to find itself trampled in one of his elephant stampedes.

Even high-ranking Likud officials have every reason in the world to suspect Sharon. For it is now crystal clear: Sharon is not really a Likudnik. He is not a flesh-and-blood devotee of the party he leads. He does not love this party, does not respect its institutions, scorns most of its leaders. And when he looks around him he can hardly find any Likud ministers with any real gravitas. Therefore, all of the Likud higher-ups who fear Ariel Sharon are right to do so. If it were up to him, he would send all of them packing. If he were 20 years younger, he would, with his own hands, take apart the Likud political golem he himself created.

Yet in spite of all these justified concerns, there is no replacement for Sharon. Because over the past few years, the man has become the exact center of the political establishment. The sole center of gravity of Israel. Meaning that for left and for right, for Labor and for Likud, Sharon is now the only alternative. Sharon is the awful option; every other option is even more awful.

From the left's perspective, the matter is very simple: only Sharon can do it. If Sharon will not be able to evacuate settlements in 2005, no one can. The occupation would become a permanent state of affairs. Yet even from the right's perspective, the matter is not especially complicated: Sharon is the last defender of most of the settlements. If the right trips up Sharon and brings about his downfall, it will cause the absolute delegitimization of the entire settlement enterprise. The right would bring down on itself the pillars that hold up its own home.

And from the perspective of Labor? If Sharon collapses, within a short while it will be proved that this all-talk-all-the-time party is not capable of evacuating even a single settlement without immersing Israel in a bloodbath. As for the perspective of the Likud, if this ruling party rises up against its leader it will be committing a Masada act. It will break up, wither and be cast out as a leper. There will be no rebirth.

Nevertheless, what is much more important than the narrow interests of each camp is the overall Israeli interest. And the overall Israeli interest says Sharon is now the only pragmatist capable of realizing the political desire of most Israelis. Therefore, he is the last hope. Therefore, those who admire him and those who despise him have to support him. Because the terrible political war that Sharon is now waging right in front of our eyes is not a war for his life. It is a war for our lives. For the very existence of our home.