Likudistan Remains Likudistan

Without Omri Sharon, Arik Sharon would not have been elected prime minister; thus, the leper of Israeli politics is to a large extent its unsung hero.

On Sunday afternoon, Omri Sharon himself was not sure if there was a chance. Everything was against him: the Hamas Qassams, the polls of the afternoon tabloids, Limor Livnat's desertion. Alone, from his apartment in central Tel Aviv, he continued making desperate phone calls to members of the central committee, mayors, ministers, trying with all his might to tilt the flow, to persuade, press, impress, to deny stubborn rumors that the Sharon team had given up, and stopped working.

And really, Omri Sharon's people didn't stop working. On the 21st floor of Likud headquarters, a small group of dedicated activists did not cease operations. A few dozen people, no more, did the dirty work for the case of sanity. A few dozen unsung people did the work that enlightenment did not know how to do for itself. Just as it was in a dozen campaigns from the past, so it was in this campaign: Omri Sharon's team, hidden from view, is what made the difference. It's what made it possible for the prime minister to tame the Likud tiger and continue riding on it.

During the coming year, Omri Sharon will stand trial and apparently be punished for campaign finance violations that were also broken by the campaign managers of all the large parties in Israel. Therefore, in the same week as the dramatic victory in the Likud Central Committee, some words of truth should be placed on the record: without Omri Sharon, Arik Sharon would not have been elected prime minister. Thus, the leper of Israeli politics is to a large extent its unsung hero. Together with his shadow army, the young Sharon was the source of the political power makingpossible the process of dividing the country to this point.

Nonetheless, it is impossible to go on like this. True: the work Omri Sharon did for his father is no different than the work Shraga Netzer did for David Ben-Gurion and Richard Bailey did for John Kennedy. But this is a different era. The politics of works committees and local authorities workers and people seeking licenses is the politics of the past. Likudistan remains Likudistan even when it votes Sharon. And the story of Likudistan must be brought to an end. It endangers Israel no less than the Hamasistan emerging in the Gaza Strip.

One can understand the desire for rest on the part of the Sharon people. They worked hard this year. They have been working hard for six straight years, lobbying, tempting, threatening as they go from campaign to campaign and victory to victory, growing a lot of black grime under their fingernails. So now, it's very tempting to rest on their laurels, take pleasure in Bibi's defeat and the humiliation of the rebels, and to continue splashing around in the Likud swamp where the waters are dark but warm, stinking but familiar.

That's not the way. The necessity of the big bang is no less important than the necessity to divide the Land. The bang is vital to guarantee the division of the country. The next stages of the political process cannot take place in the same way that the disengagement was executed. It will be impossible to continue evacuating settlements against the wishes of the ruling party. It will be impossible to shape a two-state arrangement with internal party shenanigans. It will be impossible to count on the miracle repeating itself with a few dozen unsung, dedicated activists saving Israel from the whims of the Likud.

The great gift that Ariel and Omri Sharon received ahead of Rosh Hashanah is time. They have time in their hands, the government in their hands, and in their hands is the ability to make organized decisions. However, the time they earned with a supreme effort should be used by the Sharon family to pave the way to a new political map, a map where the control is not in the hands of the Likud Central Committee but in the hands of a strong Centrist party. The Sharon Party: a party for new hope.