On the eve of the vote at the Likud convention this week, the results of which are pretty predictable, the papers have published an ad, also pretty predictable, sporting the headline: "Shimon Peres - Tireless Obstructer of Prime Ministers."
The text then goes on to enumerate Peres's sins, one by one: "1981 - Peres works against the plan to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in the days of Menachem Begin; 1987 - Peres agrees to hand over territories behind Yitzhak Shamir's back; 1993 - Peres negotiates with the Palestinians behind Yitzhak Rabin's back; 2005 - Peres hooks up with Abu Mazen to divide Jerusalem behind Ariel Sharon's back. And to sum up: "Peres will crush the Likud and split Jerusalem. A national government will bring strength and unity."
To figure out what this ad is trying to achieve and who sponsored it, you don't need to be a rocket scientist. But this is the perfect time and place to convey a message to the ad-placers: Quit looking for scapegoats. This baby known as disengagement and evacuation of settlements was fathered entirely by the Likud and its leader, Ariel Sharon.
Sharon, the man who has spent four years waging an all-out war on terror and brought you two stunning electoral victories, has told the public over and over where he is headed: "For the sake of peace, there will painful concessions. All in due time. Not too early and not too late." In mid-battle, he has repeatedly come back to this mantra: "We will not always be sitting where we are today."
It was Sharon who spoke out against occupying another people and who voiced support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. It was Sharon who accepted Bush's road map and came up with the idea of unilateral disengagement - Sharon, not Peres, who never evacuated a settlement in his life.
Even in a future unity government, Sharon will be the captain and the navigator. Peres will be his deputy, the person standing next to the man at the wheel. Don't turn him into a scapegoat. Instead of making bleak predictions and moaning about giving up something that the world would never let us keep anyway, be proud that this precedent-setting initiative to withdraw from the territories has come from you. Be proud that Sharon's defense policy, of which the left was so critical, has slowly begun to bear fruit.
Life has become easier for both sides since Arafat departed from this world, and in France, of all places - far from Sheikh Yassin and bomb makers, far from the terrorist ringleaders bumped off in targeted killings that helped the new generation of Palestinian leaders start thinking that maybe there is another way. With his mixture of toughness and doublespeak as the intifada wore on, Sharon made both sides realize that the conflict would never be won by bloodshed or brute force.
And so we woke up one morning to the scent of an accord wafting in the air. We rubbed our ears in disbelief: Assad begging to make peace with Israel? Mubarak, in a fit of eagerness to cooperate, publicly proclaiming that "only Sharon can do it"? Would we ever have seen the day when Mubarak would be sidling up to Sharon and Assad would be wooing him if Bush hadn't been reelected and declared his support of Sharon? But there's more. Would we ever have been collaborating with an Egyptian president if Menachem Begin - not Peres - hadn't had the vision and courage to make peace with Egypt in return for giving back all the occupied Egyptian territory and dismantling every last settlement there?
Where would we be today if we were still at war with Egypt, drawn into skirmishes at regular intervals and maybe another round of fighting with thousands of casualties? Who would have believed that the leader of the pre-state underground, a Greater Israel ideologue, the man who observers around the world predicted would annex the West Bank when he was elected in 1977, would be the one to set the precedent for giving back land and evacuating settlements for peace?
Peres "the leftist" talked, but Begin acted. The same way that you people in the national camp could make peace with Egypt, you are the only ones who can carry out the disengagement and demarcate Israel's permanent borders. In the chronicles of history, Mapai will go down as the party that established the state, but you will go down as the ones who brought peace.
Instead of looking for scapegoats, take care of the baby. You are the fathers. One day, you'll be proud of it.
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