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Photo: Reuters
Bye, bye, Likud: Sharon at the U.N.
Photo: Reuters
Sever Plocker
Land-for-jobs
Prime Minister Sharon to woo Likud members with promise of jobs
Those who signed the Oslo Accords believed in the phrase "land-for-peace."

 

As prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin altered the phrase: "Land-for-eradication of terror."

 

The peace camp developed its own idea: "land-for-right of return"

 

The settlers blasted the whole idea, calling the Oslo process "land-for-carpets," a play on the Hebrew words for land (shtachim) and carpet (shtichim) referring to the red-carpet treatment Israeli diplomats got used to enjoying with every withdrawal from territory.

 

Now, after it seemed we had run out of phrases, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has come up with his own take on things: Land-for-jobs.

 

This is the choice he will place before the Likud Central Committee next week: The Greater Land of Israel or full employment.

 

At the United Nations last week, Sharon issued a formal divorce to the Likud in its traditional form as a hawkish, nationalist, right-wing party.

 

He left with no regrets and no tears for the party he created, and he went even further than Shimon Peres in declaring the Palestinians' "national rights," rather than "legitimate rights."

 

After the left-wing, dovish speech, which he failed to run past any members of the Likud Central Committee and was sure to make most party members uncomfortable, to say the least, Sharon would seem to have left himself two options: One, to leave the Likud, the other to return to the "core ideals" of the Likud, forget the U.N. speech, take a strong stance against challengers Benjamin Netanyahu and Uzi Landau and hope for the best.

 

But Sharon had his own idea: To run for the Likud leadership on a platform more suited to the left-wing Meretz Party.

 

How will he pull it off? He will convince member s of the Likud Central Committee and party members that under his leadership, the party will win at least 42 seats in next year's elections, and in practice will control many government ministries and will have the power to provide jobs, jobs, and more jobs for party supporters.

 

On the other hand, a Netanyahu or Landau-led Likud, either together or separate, will indeed preserve wide swaths of the Land of Israel, but will win no more than 20 Knesset seats, if that. And so the Likud will lose power, and with it its ability to hand out jobs, jobs and more jobs.

 

After much experience, Sharon decided to do something exceptional in Israeli politics: To tell voters the bitter truth, up front.

 

At the U.N., Sharon spelled out an all-encompassing political vision, including a wide-scale withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, the eviction of thousands more Israelis from their homes and the establishment of an independent, national Palestinian state.

 

On the basis of this speech, Sharon will say to the Likud next week: "Yeah, I've changed my mind because the reality in the region has changed. This summer, we put an end to the idea of the Greater Land of Israel, the heart of the Likud's traditional ideology."

 

I am hiding nothing, Sharon will say - if you reelect me, or put off primaries and leave me to head this party and the government, I promise you I will put the country on a painful path to return to the 1967 borders, with small adjustments in the border.

 

But I also promise we will have a large Knesset faction, with the ability to hand out jobs, lots of jobs.

 

Sharon is sure he'll win, this time without tricking the voter. As a shepherd who knows his flock inside and out, Sharon is sure he understands the collective soul of the Likud and the way the winds are blowing inside the party.

 

Today, the Likud is little more than a shell of its former self, with no ideology, and the only thing driving it is a desperate desire to see some party called "Likud," even if that party bears no resemblance to the party it has always been.

 

So here is the choice Sharon will present to the Likud committee: Nationalist ideology or income. The Land of Israel vs. Likud power. Splitting the Land of Israel vs. distributing jobs.

 

As a farmer, Sharon has no doubt – he won't forego the jobs. The West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron is a different story.

 

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