ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Moving Forward 17.12.05

Moving Forward

17 December 2005

By Yisrael Ne'eman

PM Ariel Sharon and his new centrist Kadima (“Forward”) party are phenomena. At the moment there is no real party platform, except that everyone suspects that whatever Sharon, Ehud Olmert & Co. believe in must be somewhere between Labor on the left and the Likud on the right. The party is labeled “pragmatist” and is drawing support from disgruntled Likudniks, Laborites and Shinui defectors. The new party spends its time in contradiction. Take this past week’s comments made by Kadima’s pollster, Kalman Gayer to Newsweek, where he stated that Sharon would divide Jerusalem and return 90% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in return for a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians. But because this is unattainable, the PM would settle for an interim arrangement with the PA whereby half of the West Bank would still be held by Israel along with a temporarily united Jerusalem. Sharon distanced himself from Gayer’s remarks saying they were held by the pollster himself and no one else.

It is widely understood that the security fence with the West Bank will be the de facto boundary with the Palestinians and anyone living on the other side will find themselves removed to “this side” of the barrier. Sharon denies there will be further disengagements even though reports surfaced saying the PM would gladly “disengage” from at least another 17 isolated settlements in Judea and Samaria. He reinforces such thinking when continually reminding everyone of the necessity of a “Jewish and democratic state.” As the fence is being build dozens more Jewish developments find themselves remaining on the “other side.”

On the economic front the party promises to be sensitive to social welfare issues affecting the lower classes while simultaneously pursuing the heavily capitalist 2005 State Budget. Everyone knows that should Kadima win the elections it will take at least until July to pass the 2006 Budget and begin to implement social reforms, if they are decided upon.

The most interesting comment is offered up by Channel One and Voice of Israel newsman, Yaron Dekel who claims that no one really believes Sharon, therefore they support him – meaning that the Left does not believe he will not implement further disengagements and the Right does not believe there will be another disengagement.

Yet Sharon is the most popular and trusted senior politician in Israel. And let’s not forget, his son Omri faces sentencing for election fraud and illegal fundraising on behalf of his father’s 1999 campaign to gain the Likud leadership position. Furthermore, Kadima will not have internal primaries as is accepted in both the Likud and Labor. Sharon and his inner circle will arrange the party list for the Knesset in a throwback to what is considered less democratic times.

So why do public opinion polls give Sharon and Kadima one-third of all votes to be cast in the next elections? Israelis are fed up with all the political infighting and want a strong leader who will steer a pragmatic course. Ideology is far from a major issue these days. They trust Arik’s judgment and want him to decide. Let it be an autocracy, an oligarchy, whatever. People just want the correct decision made and implemented in the shortest amount of time and to “get on with it” – to move “forward.” It is reminiscent of the 1950s and Ben Gurion. Many are resigned to handing over authority to a powerful leader, figuring he knows best.