The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, April 28, 2002  


Can there be any doubt that the government of Ariel Sharon has been an complete and utter failure?

Sharon's law-and-order, strong-arm, and pro-settlements reputation got him into office, and now Israel and the Palestinians -- and ultimately the United States -- are paying the price.

A genuine read on Israeli public opinion regarding Sharon, the latest attack on the Palestinians (known as "Operation Defensive Shield") seems difficult to find. We have read polls in American and Israeli newspapers that offer distinctly contrasting views.

Today in Ha'aretz Daily we can read the opinion of at least one Israeli, Uzi Benziman, who has a solid grasp of the dire predicament in which Sharon has placed his nation, his closest ally, and his greatest enemy.

Benziman's aritcle, "Sharon's Responsibility," is a virtual political indictment of Ariel Sharon and his government. One that would be virtually unpublishable in the American media.

"Since March 2001, responsibility for the [Israeli] government's successes and failures is [Ariel Sharon's] and his alone, and he no longer has the prerogative of placing it at anyone else's door," writes Benziman.

Benziman minces no words:

"He is the man who for over a year has been leading the country to an increasingly serious conflict with the Palestinians.

"He is the man who has set in motion the aggressive responses to terror attacks.

"He is the man who urged the government to approve the policy of targeted killings, the deep incursions into Area A, the use of air force planes, the humiliation of Yasser Arafat, and in the last month, the reoccupation of West Bank cities and refugee camps, the isolation of Arafat and the imposition of a siege on the Church of the Nativity.

"For better or worse, the approach taken against the Palestinian uprising of the past year is Sharon's. The other actors -- Shimon Peres, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer -- are merely bit players."

Benziman has plenty of questions that beg answers.

Sharon must explain why Palestinian terrorist acts have taken a toll in Israeli lives in unprecedented figures, why Israel is "isolated internationally unlike anything since the Sinai Campaign of 1956," and the country's mood resembles that which preceded the Six Day War," he writes.

The ultimate question facing Sharon is this: "Why," asks Benziman, "is Israel in a worse state today than it was a year ago? "

Is Sharon dense? Is it possible he has no understanding of the all but inevitable consequences of his government's actions?

Benziman doesn't think so. He maintains that Sharon knows attacks by Palestinians will continue, in the West Bank and in Israel itself, that Sharon can see the connection between the military assault and the internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, Benziman, asserts, "Sharon is aware of the connection between Israel's security situation and its economic, moral, psychological and political situation."

Despite all this, Sharon "is unable to see the inevitable conclusion: There is no choice but to end the occupation and abandon the territories. The results of this failure are his own, along with the responsibility for his failed leadership." [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

It is sad that this conflict remains at the same point at which it stood in 1967, indeed as it stood in 1948. With that in mind, we concur that Sharon bears the ultimate responsibility for the tragedy that Israeli is today. But the groundwork was laid in advance, by such heralded prime ministers as Ben-Gurion, Sharett, Eshkol, Meir, Begin, Shamir, Peres, Barak, and Netanyahu. It's time to break the chain.

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