Friday, January 06, 2006

Is a Post-Sharon Peace Possible?

It is impossible not to reflect on the consequences for the Middle East of Ariel Sharon's almost certain departure from the political scene of Israel.

For all of his past, and the dubious nature also of some of his present policies, he was the man who opened up a realistic possibility of a peace in the years ahead.

He dared to break off from the dream of a Greater Israel - eventually understanding the nightmare that this would mean for the country - and start reorganizing the political scene of Israel accordingly.

The Gaza withdrawal, the break with Likud and the setting up of the Kadima party was the beginning - but only the beginning.

Now everything suddenly looks very uncertain. Can anyone assemble the strength and determination that will be required to take Israel to a realistic deal for peace?

Ehud Olmert will be the Prime Minister at the least up to the March Knesset elections, are there is little doubt that he wants to carry the recent Sharon line forward in the years ahead. Speaking last year, he phrased the task as this:

"We are tired of fighting. We are tired of being courageous. We are tired of winning. We are tired of defeating our enemies. We want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors. And I believe that this is not impossible."

In all of the uncertainty now, that at the least bring some hope. But fighting the extremists intent on blocking every move towards accomodation and peace will require both courage and strength.

It should be noted that things are getting increasingly complicated on the Palestinian side as well.

The Election Commission has just resigned, since their work was subject of political interference. The East Jerusalem issue is still open. The militant groups are ending their cease-fire. Turmoil seems to be the order of the day in Gaza.

I am still supposed to head to Jerusalem towards the end of the month in connection primarily with the Palestinian elections.

But under these circumstances nothing is certain.

Haaretz - Israel News