Sunday, May 27, 2007

It's better to be orphans

By Gideon Levy

Once again we are being hit by a wave of desire for "a strong man."
From every direction, from the left and right, voices that miss former
prime minister Ariel Sharon are being heard, like voices of longing for
a father who has departed. "If Sharon were here the war in Lebanon
would have ended differently," and "Sharon would have put an end to the
Qassams a long time ago."

Let it be said at once: Being orphaned in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's
shadow is better than the fatherliness of the mythical leader. Hamas
should be profoundly grateful to Sharon, thanks to whom it now controls
Gaza. Hezbollah, too, would be ungrateful if it did not thank the man
who led to its firm footing in Lebanon, and here in Israel Sderot owes
that man for the Qassams that are landing on its head. Those who now
miss Sharon are longing for the brute force and bullying that led us to
the brink. Israel is nostalgic for its most dangerous leader, for the
person who caused it more damage than anyone else.

During his six years as prime minister Sharon wiped out the last chance for the
existence of a Palestinian partner. Sharon's Israel waged war on the
Palestinian Liberation Organization, and instead of a secular movement
that believes in compromises we received a fanatical Islamic
leadership, just as the first Lebanon war gave rise to Hezbollah. Whom
do we have to thank for this? Sharon.

Under Sharon's leadership the Israel Defense Forces destroyed all the institutions of
the new and fragile Palestinian regime, from the police headquarters in
various places to the welfare offices. As for Yasser Arafat, the only
person who was able to forge a historic compromise, we eliminated him
as a leader, and no one in Israel asked what would rise on the ruins of
the PLO and who would come after Arafat. We have locked up Marwan
Barghouti, a promising potential leader, for many years, together with
a long list of political activists who talked about peace. We have also
denied Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, the most moderate of the
Palestinian leaders, any chance of gaining control, and we are not
letting him present even the slightest achievement to his suffering

Sharon is responsible for all of this. Under him,
Israel spoke only the language of force, and of military and
engineering operations, from Defensive Shield to the separation fence.
After that, Sharon landed the much-praised disengagement on us. While
ignoring in a racist and lordly way the existence of the Palestinian
people in the Gaza Strip, which has its needs and desires, and ignoring
its leadership, Sharon pulled the IDF and Jewish settlements out of
Gaza without any agreement or hope for the future, only to allow Israel
to continue to control the West Bank. We destroyed everything and we
left the Gaza Strip behind lock and bolt, imprisoned as it had never
been before.

And it is no wonder that imprisoned and hungry
people, who have no exit, have turned to anarchy and violence. The
experiment with humans has succeeded: They have indeed begun to run
amok in their huge cage. Hamas came into power - this too was no
surprise - and the world imposed a cruel economic boycott on the
Palestinian Authority, with Israel's encouragement, even when the unity
government arose. The civil war and the Qassams were not long in
coming. These are just the appetizer. And what did we expect? And what
did Sharon intend when he replaced one occupation with another?

If, heaven forbid, Sharon were now in a position of leadership, the IDF
would already have invaded Gaza, just as it invaded Jenin and Nablus
and sowed killing and destruction there. The firing of the Qassams
might have ceased for a while, just as has happened with the terror
attacks from the West Bank. But on the ruins, reinforced by poverty and
despair, a new form of violent resistance would have arisen. Sharon, a
real man, would also have totally destroyed the last remnants of the
Palestinian unity government, and even then no one would have asked
what would come in its stead. It isn't that we aren't acting like
bullies now as well, kidnapping an education minister in the middle of
the night and bombing money changers. But Olmert has refrained from
going all the way in Sharon's path. How pleasant it is, relatively and
temporarily, to be orphans in his lap.

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