Hogan's Alley

Thursday, January 05, 2006

After Sharon The Deluge?

By all accounts the stroke that has hospitalized Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ended his political career if not his life. This has occurred just as Sharon's newly formed Kadima party was poised for victory in the upcoming March 28 elections. Deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who is said to be philosophically very close to Sharon, has taken over operation of the government. The question for the future is whether he or any other polititian can sustain a third way in Israeli politics and be a forceful negotiator with the Palestinians.

Sharon's career was unique. He was the hated "Butcher of Shabra and Shatilla", the Palestinian refugee camps Sharon's Army invaded in 1982. He was the leader of Likud whose visit to the grounds of the Dome of the Rock in 2000 single handedly set off the Intifada. Yet it was Sharon's election to the office of Prime Minister that was practically handed to him when Yasir Arafat rejected then PM Barak's generous offer for a two state settlement. Lastly, it was Sharon who forced his nation to return control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and was moving to repeat the process in the West Bank.

Sharon may have been the only Israeli with the gravitas to move this seemingly endless process towards some conclusion. I hope I am wrong.