If Ariel Sharon has turned into Yossi Beilin, our political situation is excellent. The one thing that the events of the past week have proven is that Sharon-Beilin is simply a genius. Nothing can beat Sharon-Beilin. In no time at all, the new Sharon-Beilin has overcome the old Sharon-Beilin. Within a few months, the current Sharon-Beilin maneuvered the traditional Sharon-Sharon into a corral, like the one used to lead livestock to the slaughter, from which it is nearly impossible to escape. Give him a few months of quiet and the result will be unequivocal, Sharon-Beilin will destroy to the very foundations the life's work of Sharon-Sharon. Sharon-Beilin won't leave a single stone standing from all that Sharon-Sharon built.
To appreciate the power of the drama taking place in front of our eyes, one has to understand just how deep run the differences between Sharon-Beilin and Sharon-Sharon. In general, Sharon-Sharon does not believe Arabs. Sharon-Beilin trusts them. As a matter of principle, Sharon-Sharon does not believe in a final status agreement; Sharon-Beilin only believes in a final peace agreement. By and large, Sharon-Sharon regards an Israel limited to the 1967 borders to be a lost Israel; Sharon-Beilin is convinced that an Israel that deviates from the 1967 borders lacks longevity.
Out of their contradictory world views, Sharon-Sharon and Sharon-Beilin have developed opposing strategies: Sharon-Sharon seeks to achieve peace in a generation. Peace on a slow burner. Peace with its main axis the axis of time. On the other hand, Sharon-Beilin wants to get peace within a year. Peace now, peace immediately, peace tomorrow morning.
They regard the disengagement completely differently, as well. Sharon-Sharon hopes the withdrawal from Gaza will freeze the political process; Sharon-Beilin believes the withdrawal from Gaza will accelerate the process. Sharon-Sharon assumes that evacuating 20 settlements will strengthen a remaining 100; Sharon-Beilin is convinced that evacuating the 20 settlements leads inexorably to the evacuation of another 100. Sharon-Sharon believes in disengagement as formaldehyde. Sharon-Beilin believes in disengagement as amphetamine.
Thus the hidden clash that has taken place between Sharon-Sharon and Sharon-Beilin has not been something to take lightly. Although the two seemingly were speaking about the same things and agreeing to the same steps, a titan's struggle took place between them. Until the death of Yasser Arafat, Sharon-Sharon had the upper hand. His well-known foxiness proved itself. In exchange for what he perceived as virtual concessions - accepting the idea of two states, accepting the road map - Sharon-Sharon achieved something tangible, a sequence of security before peace: Leave the guns outside before we start talking. That tangible accomplishment, Sharon-Sharon believed, guaranteed that everything remained under control. Until the Palestinians turn into Finns, Israel will not be required to fulfill the far-reaching commitments it took upon itself. Until the king dies or the dog dies, it will be possible to maneuver comfortably.
But then the king died. And within two months the Palestinians were redefined as Finns. Abu Mazen managed to convince the world he is on his way to Helsinki, and all at once the burden of proof was shifted to Israel, to the dramatic commitments it took upon itself. And Sharon-Sharon suddenly found himself defenseless, found himself vanquished by Sharon-Beilin, fulfilling Sharon-Beilin. Galloping toward a Palestinian state, toward a final status agreement, to the 1967 lines.
The struggle is not over yet. Never underestimate the sophistication of Sharon-Sharon. Never mock his ability to surprise. Nor should there be any underestimation of the Palestinian talent at foiling themselves. If the Hamas raises its head, Sharon-Sharon will suddenly escape from the corral. If Abu Mazen's Finnish suit suddenly falls off, Sharon-Sharon will nonetheless get the last laugh. However, this week, the week of Condoleezza Rice's visit, was Sharon-Beilin's week. This week, the week of the tabloid euphoria in Sharm, was the week of victory for Sharon-Beilin. Vera Sheinman of Kfar Malal is no doubt spinning in her grave: This is not the son she prayed for.
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