Text size

The Labor Party has lost any lust for power. When Likud was in the opposition, its leaders disdained no political maneuver - whether legitimate or slightly less so - to shorten the days of the Barak government.

In those far-off days (toward the end of 2000) the opposition flooded the Knesset with dozens of private members' bills costing billions to prevent the passing of the state budget. When Shas proposed increasing childrens' allowances to a ridiculous record high of NIS 855 (beginning with the fifth child), Likud voted in favor to forge an alliance with Shas. Likud MK Reuven Rivlin said at the time, in a moment of truth: "It's a bad law, but without the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) we don't have a government. I know that half the money will go to those same Arabs who want to dominate us by demography, but I want to be in power."

Labor Party leaders, on the other hand, don't believe the party can win an election - they don't even believe they have merchandise the public wants to buy. They don't believe in their own ideology. And when it's impossible to be the party in power (but in spite of that, one misses being a minister) it becomes a tail that is looking for a dog to attach itself to.

The senior members of the Labor Party, the former ministers, want their Volvos back. They wanted that even when Sharon didn't have any plan at all, and even when he had a "graduated" plan. They want it even now, when he has an "amended" plan, which has everything - both disengagement and non-evacuation of settlements.

To decide on evacuating even one home, the government will have to vote once again "according to the circumstances at the time," and in Israel the circumstances change daily, and who knows what Prime Minister Sharon himself will do the moment the cloud of the indictment against him is removed, if it is.

The leaders of the Labor Party want to renew the alliance with Sharon, with the touching claim that without Labor the disengagement will not take place. To test this claim, we should go back to 2001 and 2002, when Labor participated in the first Sharon government.

In those years it would have been possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, in the context of which Israel would have transferred the Gaza Strip to the PA, released prisoners and received significant political compensation and a fight against terrorism.

But during those entire two years, after every attack carried out by Hamas, Sharon (with the support of Labor ministers Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Shimon Peres) ordered the bombing of the PA offices, the PA police, the PA government mechanisms, until the PA was destroyed and Hamas was strengthened. And when Palestinian civilians were killed in the course of the targeted assassinations, one could always rely on Peres to come out to explain and to soften the criticism of world leaders.

During those two years not a single withdrawal was carried out, and no negotiations began. Now of all times, when the Labor Party is in the opposition, Sharon brings a withdrawal plan to the government for the first time. In other words, when the Labor Party applies pressure from the opposition, arouses public opinion, supports mass demonstrations, levels criticism in the media - it does succeed in creating internal and American pressure that influences Sharon to initiate a withdrawal plan.

When the Labor Party joins the government, it will melt away as an alternative, the pressure on Sharon will disappear, and he will postpone the vote on the evacuation indefinitely. And perhaps the whole idea of disengagement is only an optical illusion that is meant to achieve a good press until the Attorney General's decision on his case.

After all, telling the truth was never exactly Sharon's most dominant characteristic. He promised U.S. President George Bush several times to evacuate all the illegal outposts in the West Bank. So what? He hasn't evacuated even one outpost with one mobile home on one rocky hill - so how will he succeed in evacuating an entire settlement?

In 2003 he said Netzarim, a small and isolated settlement in the Gaza Strip, is a strategic asset whose fate is equal in importance to Tel Aviv's. So when should we believe him? Sharon is now entering his final straight. He doesn't have a majority in the Knesset. Part of the National Religious Party has left, and half of the Likud faction doesn't support him.

This is an excellent opportunity for the opposition to present a political alternative, to gather support and to replace the government. The only problem is that in order to do so, there has to be someone in the party leadership with an appetite for power. Someone like a Rivlin.