Monday, January 09, 2006


Amos Oz is a celebrated novelist, journalist and writer of non-fiction. He is a peace activist – one of the founders of Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) and one of the first people to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he has been doing since 1967. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on his novels and he is one of my heroes. I also lived in Arad, in the Negev, where he lived and still lives now.

Amos Oz published an article in 1967 in the Labour newspaper Davar called “Land of our Forefathers”, from which comes one of his most famous quotes: “Even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation.”

More recently, Amos Oz has spoken about Ariel Sharon:

He is leaving us, taking with him the answers to two great mysteries. Why in the autumn of his life had he suddenly converted so radically? And what else was he going to do in the direction of peace and reconciliation?

The demise of Ariel Sharon has left a vacuum in Israeli politics.

The platform of the party that Ariel Sharon recently founded, Kadima, is not perfect, but it is progressive and it has offered the Israeli people hope that a two-state solution can be reached. The party has brought together former rivals from the right and the left who seem to be determined to bring peace to Israel and Palestine.

Israel has a general election scheduled for the 28th of March. Before Sharon’s stroke, which has almost certainly removed him from politics, Kadima was well ahead in the pre-election polls. There are 120 seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and it was projected that Kadima would take 42 seats, which would then be enough to form a coalition government.

Last Friday, the newspaper Yediot Achronot published the results of a poll, which showed that Kadima, with Ehud Olmert leading the party, would still take 39 seats, with Labour taking 20 and Likud 16.

The newspaper Haaretz together with Channel 10 conducted its own survey and found the following:

Kadima with Olmert at its head would take 40 seats;

Kadima with Tzipi Livni at its head would take 38 seats; and

Kadima with Shimon Peres at its head would take 42 seats.

But analysts are not trusting the polls at all. The general consensus is that it is too soon to tell.

Joshua Teitelbaum of the Moshe Dayan Centre and a professor at Tel Aviv University:

As far as polls go I think you have to take them with a grain of salt. I think what you have now is a bit of a sympathy vote. It may be that they lose support in a couple of days or weeks. This Kadima Party was really Sharon's party in every way, so without Sharon I think you will see it lose support after the sympathy vote dissipates.

Even the members of Kadima have admitted that a lot could change between now and 28 March. The first question is whether support for Kadima has really been for a centrist party or if it has been more for Sharon. The second question is about Shimon Peres: Will he stay in the party without Sharon? If Peres goes back to Labour, Kadima will very likely fall apart. Labour and Likud have both sent out feelers to see if certain people would return to their former parties with Sharon out of the picture.

And Bibi Netanyahu, an extremely dangerous man, is lurking, waiting for his chance to jump back in to fill the vacuum that Sharon has left. I am afraid that Shimon Peres is too old to stop him and there is no one else on the Israeli political scene that has the stature and charisma to keep Bibi away from centre stage.

The timing of Sharon’s stroke could not have been worse. And as Amos Oz has suggested, we will never know what might have been.

1 comment:

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Speaking of "lurking," how about that Hamas?