Photo: Jeremy Feldman
Yossi Beilin
Photo: Jeremy Feldman
Mistrust as an asset
For fifty years Ariel Sharon tried to fool us. Now we are willing to fool ourselves
It may be rather unusual, but it is a fact: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s most valuable asset is his lack of credibility. For fifty years at least, since David Ben-Gurion wrote that he (Sharon) could have been an excellent military leader had he been accustomed to telling the truth, Sharon built himself an image of a cynical bulldozer who does what he likes and never blinks when lying - adopting the strategy with his supporters and foes alike.


In the past this image had negative repercussions for Sharon as it turned him into someone who can only dream of taking central stage and dictating a policy. Today, it seems to me that if a heavenly angel were to propose to do away with that image and turn him into a trustworthy person in the eyes of the people, the prime minister would do everything in his power to prevent it from happening.


Sharon’s pullout from Gaza was not his plan. He was elected prime minister twice, and only after a year had passed on his second term

did he pull out this experiment, that is the disengagement plan. He understood well that a withdrawal of this nature will boost Hamas and weaken the Palestinian Authority, yet nevertheless he went for the plan because he was under pressure (the Road Map scared him, the Geneva Initiative peace program and the broad support it received at home and abroad troubled him, and the police investigation into his affairs left him no choice but to go for disengagement, a move which seemed hallucinatory to him two years earlier).


Following this decision, Sharon was treated like the weakest student in the classroom who succeeded however low his grades. If you were to make a small effort you can become Einstein, they told him. When Labor searched for an excuse to occupy cabinet chairs, it praised him as its prophet. President George W. Bush whose ratings on the international arena were sinking in the sea, jumped at the opportunity as a last resort for salvation. Europe found in Sharon a new De Gaulle. President Hosni Mubarak reached the conclusion that only Sharon can do it. On the other hand the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, for whom the pullout was a deliberate slap on the cheek, had no choice but to welcome the Israeli withdrawal.


Who is the real Sharon?


Do you remember Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times” in the sequence where he picks up a red ribbon on a rod that fell off a truck, naively lifts it up, and turns into a socialist leader escorting a crowd? That’s Sharon. He wanted to take leave of some trouble, to gain time, and to use the Gaza pullout as a cover to expand settlements in the West Bank.


At the moment, as many are willing to see in him a man of peace following his limited deed, he is no doubt interested in preserving a newly-earned status that surprised and flattered him so much, provided that the maintenance of this image does not carry a heavy price tag. How is this achieved? That’s the time to capitalize on his mistrust and make the best of it - turn it into a valuable asset. He pledged to make no further territorial concessions and to return to the framework of the Road Map (which he evaded at some point where he invented the “pre-Road Map”), only if certain unattainable conditions arise (such as a Palestinian civil war). But who will believe Sharon?


In his own party they argue that he veered to the left of the leftist Meretz-Yachad party, his closest allies are speaking of more withdrawals, partial agreements and other ideas, fruits of their imagination. Meanwhile Sharon makes public appearances day and night, swears that no man speaks in his name and insists that his policy has not changed. Those who believe him will continue to convince themselves that the father of the settlement industry has another face, one that will follow through the work of Yitzhak Rabin. Fifty years of investment have not gone down the drain.


For fifty years Sharon has been trying to fool us. Now we are willing to fool ourselves. Sharon who postpones meetings with Abbas and who sets conditions to every political motion is the real Sharon.


Yossi Beilin is Chairman of the Meretz-Yachad party

פרסום ראשון: 10.04.05, 09:18
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