Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My commentary on post-Sharon Israeli politics in Chronicles

Chronicles magazine has made parts of its March 2006 available online. You can read there (and here) my commentary on Israeli politics in the post-Sharon era:

American Proscenium
Goodbye, Greater Israel; Hello . . . What?
by Leon T. Hadar
My name and title (“global-political and economic-affairs analyst”) appears on a few rolodexes on the desks of the young ladies, a.k.a. “schedulers,” who are in search of pundits—that is, pompous think tankers and retired foreign-policy types who are willing “to do Iraq” or “to do Iran” (in Washington lingo) or some other international crisis.
So it was not surprising that, when Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon “remained seriously dead” (as comedian Chevy Chase used to open his fictional “news” segments on Saturday Night Live to report on Generalissimo Franco’s very, very long death watch), I received hysterical phone calls from panic-stricken schedulers asking whether I would be able to “do Sharon” and to discuss whether the world-as-we-know-it would survive even if he departed to a more peaceful place. The more composed among the callers wanted to know if “we” would be able to continue moving ahead with the “peace process” in the aftermath of Sharon’s exit. And they seemed to have taken it for granted that I considered the retired Israeli general to be a “peacemaker” and one of the most important figures in Israeli, not to mention Jewish, history.
Well, my personal view has always been more nuanced. There are those who have worshiped the Sharon who, during the 1973 Middle East War, commanded Israeli forces crossing the Suez Canal and transformed what could have been a military defeat into a victory. And there are those who have despised the man who, in 1982, led Israel into a bloody quagmire in Lebanon that turned out to be Israel’s Vietnam (and a preview of sorts of America’s Iraq). More recently, there was a tendency for some, including those who did not like him and blamed his policies—in particular, the establishment of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza—for setting obstacles on the way to Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, to reassess their attitude toward the Israeli prime minister (especially after his decision to remove some of the settlements he helped to build). Indeed, one analyst even compared him to Charles de Gaulle, the liberator of France from German occupation who also presided over the French withdrawal from Algeria. The hope among the born-again Sharonites has been that the new Sharon could mobilize the support of the Israelis to produce a rerun of the Algerian scenario in Palestine. More

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