Who Played Whom?
By A.D. Freudenheim

13 May 2002

Although the newspaper articles suggest that Ariel Sharon's Likud Party nemesis, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have been the organizing power behind Sharon's internal, party defeat over the weekend, it is unclear whether or not this actually represents a failure for the Israeli Prime Minister, or if it merely allows him some political cover, at a slight cost.

The defeat concerns a vote within the Likud Party over two resolutions - one offered by Sharon, the other by Netanyahu - which defined alternate views of the potential creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Sharon resolution ostensibly followed the same plan his government has shown to the world: security first, then peace, and then, perhaps, a Palestinian state. This contrasts sharply with the winning resolution: Netanyahu's version affirmed a simple Likud commitment never to allow the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories, period. The question is: was Sharon trumped by Netanyahu in a party struggle that pits the former Prime Minister against the current one, and sets the stage for Netanyahu to be the Israeli version of a Comeback Kid?

I don't think so. Ariel Sharon's historical opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state is well known. His more recent acknowledgments of the possibility of a Palestinian state have all been couched in such intense security-oriented, non-Arafat-including, give-up-no-settlements style language that it has sometimes been difficult to envision the Palestinian state he seems to be describing. (Imagine the state of Delaware, and its people, transferred in size and scope to the geographic center of the United States, but now established as a free and independent nation. This seems to be what Sharon has in mind for the Palestinians, with all of the related ramifications of such a move.)

Given this, it seems much more likely that Sharon will use the newly-affirmed Likud position to cover his right flank in any upcoming political battles. The Netanyahu resolution makes it possible for the Prime Minister to address the deeply-held, anti-Palestinian stance of the Israeli right by acknowledging obeisance to the Likud party position. The degree to which this contradicts his global playing field position of "security first, then peace, and then, perhaps, a Palestinian state" is more a matter of belief than anything else. That is, if you trust that Sharon is the peacemaker he says he is, then perhaps you have believed in the truth of his pro-Palestinian-state remarks all along. Apparently, Netanyahu believed them, but he - and his fellow Likud party members - might be the only ones who did.

Copyright 2002, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
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