Thursday, August 18, 2005

Israeli Political Vectors from the Gaza Evacuation

Big bang baby bang By Yossi Verter

"In about two months, after the dust of the disengagement has settled, the Jewish High Holidays will come. The entire month of October will be one big, prolonged weekend. This is the time for soul-searching, for planning the future. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will sit musing in the watchtower at his ranch where he likes to be alone, looking out over the green hills and endless pastures. If he has not made the decision by then, he will do so there, in the tower, on the eve of convening the winter session of the 16th Knesset on October 31, which will apparently also be the last session of this Knesset.

"It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the decision that faces Sharon. It could well influence the shape of the political configuration in Israel in a way that no other decision by a single person has ever influenced it. Sharon's decision will mould the political reality in Israel, in one direction or the other, for many others: Will he run, again, for the head of the Likud against his main rival and the person at the top of his hate list, former finance minister and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu - or will he embark on a new, risky and adventurous path that will split the Likud and send huge tsunami waves all over the political map?

"This is the crucial, historic decision that the post-disengagement Sharon will have to take. From it, additional decisions will stem: whether to move up the elections or to try, with complex and exhausting acrobatics, to survive as long as possible. Sharon's aides say he will try to put off elections as long as he can, because prime ministers in Israel generally are not keen to go to early elections.

"On the other hand, if there is to be a split, Sharon is looking toward the "big bang" - that is, linking up with the center parties (Likud moderates headed by him, along with the Labor Party and Shinui, forming what is called "the opposition of the three old men," after its leaders Sharon, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and MK Yosef Lapid) - or toward the "medium bang" (the Likud and Shinui), or only toward the "baby bang" (the establishment of a "Likud 2" in which there will be Sharon and his supporters, versus Netanyahu's right-wing Likud)."

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