"Did you know the tree owl can turn its head 270 degrees?" was the CBS trivia question last week in an apparent synopsis of its report on Israel's agreeing to George W. Bush's road map. Bush emphasizes the "W" in interviews with the Arab press, perhaps to hint that he's a new, more determined version of his father, who was also president.
CBS didn't claim that Ariel Sharon's policies bore any resemblance to the qualities of the North American bird with the large ears that look like horns. Of course there's no connection - they just like to spice up their news with such things.
Since Thursday, September 28, 2000, when the then fading Knesset member Ariel Sharon set foot on Temple Mount, a lethal 32-month war has been raging. Another week, another month, and if indeed a lengthy lull is achieved, this war could also finally have a name - the thousand-day war. This would be like the war of attrition along the Suez, with Sharon as Southern Command general, which ended with a cease-fire that began with three months but lasted three years.
Sharonologists swear his new policy reflects a real decision, made from the necessity of logic and in an emotional storm. As evidence, Sharon is now telling everyone he tried to tell Amram Mitzna the day after the Knesset elections.
As expected, Mitzna chose not to believe him and to decline the Defense Ministry portfolio. Since last summer, Mitzna's moves, in addition to his personal evaporation, has caused Labor's resignation from the government, and hasty elections in which it was smashed and Sharon proved that it was not necessary for peace. If Mitzna had not popped up in Haifa to challenge Benjamin Ben-Eliezer with registered Peace Now party members who didn't bother to go back to the polls to vote for his party for the Knesset, the elections would have been, as planned, in another five months. The credit for Sharon's newfound moderation would have been partially granted to the restraining influence of Shimon Peres and Ben-Eliezer.
Sharon has never had and doesn't have a line - just points, which afterward are formed into a line. He always recites "no" to the Palestinians, "yes" to the Americans, and "maybe" to the center, whether in its old form Labor or in its current incarnation, Shinui. He does not initiate, only blocks, and the suddenly slandered occupation in his mouth is only the verbal braying of a ram against rivals.
If he was so disgusted by controlling others, control that does not matter how many are controlled or their readiness to bear arms against occupiers, he would admit there's no difference in principle between Gaza and the West Bank to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Sharon is now going through what Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad predicted, not entirely successfully, would be Saddam Hussein's fate - his back is to the wall. Two groups, the Bush entourage and the Israeli police, will be asking him to answer some tough questions - Bush about the future, the police about the past.
Bush will demand to know what Sharon will do, and the police will want to know why he allegedly did what they have found out he has done. A cautious investor would not put his money on the chances of Sharon being around as prime minister in 2004.
In the thousand-day war, if things don't go wrong and it turns into the two thousand-day war, there were four major players - Yasser Arafat, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. If not for the first three, the fourth would have long since been pressuring Sharon, who was and remains a bully - powerful against Arafat, weak against Bush.
Twenty years late, Sharon joins his partner-deposer from the Kahan Commission Report, Menachem Begin, in a political version of Begin's saying: "I can't go on."
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