Wednesday, January 04, 2006

All bets are off

The news coming out of Israel tonight is grim. It seems entirely clear the PM is struggling for his life; Ha'aretz says says they're waiting for a miracle.
No matter what happens to Ariel Sharon tonight or over the coming days, he's political history. Unlike the previous stroke, Sharon, if he survives, won't be able to shrug this off; this has changed everything.
As we've written several times before, the Israeli political system revolves entirely around this one man. If he's gone, so is everything we think we know at the moment about the political scene, and all bets are off; quite simply, despite all the pressure on the tv networks to predict what will happen next, the system will be shaken so radically that it is simply impossible to predict anything at all.
Most importantly, with Ariel Sharon gone also goes the broad Israeli consensus which has, miraculously, formed over the past few years. There's no one out there who embodies a vision a majority of Israelis can sign on to, other than Ariel Sharon (and that despite the fact that most Israelis aren't even particularly clear about what his vision is; they simply trust him). Sharon's sudden political departure will also leave Israel significantly weaker externally, with no strong leader, no one who can handle the conflict with the Palestinians as assuredly, and no one Israelis really trust to handle their foreign and defense policy.
The questions now are, Olmert, Peres (....or Mofaz??). Will the elections go ahead as planned? What will happen to the MKs who joined Kadima -- does the party still exist? Is there anyone else out there with the charisma and power to continue disengagement? Where does this leave Israel vis a vis the Palestinians?
Whatever happens, we wish Ariel Sharon a refuah shlemah and pray that he pulls through quickly.

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