ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Prime Minister Less Important than Disengagement 31.3.04

Prime Minister Less Important than Disengagement

31 March 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

In Israel the big question is whether PM Ariel Sharon will be indicted in at least one of two investigations pending against him, the first for alleged bribe taking and the second for receiving illegal election funding. If charged he would most surely resign.

At the moment Sharon is in the middle of selling his Gaza Disengagement Plan to both the Americans and his own Likud Party. The Americans are looking for any unilateral steps by Israel to be coordinated with the Bush Road Map and hence Sharon will be in the US in mid April to work out details with the administration. As for the Likud, last night Sharon announced that a vote will be taken among all party members in order to grant him approval (the media reports 51% in favor, 36% against) to go ahead with the initiative despite opposition from his own ministers and Knesset members.

Assuming Sharon convinces the Americans and his own party, the Disengagement Plan will become official policy and it will make little difference whether he remains as prime minister, since the policy will be set in motion. Most likely Benyamin Netanyahu will become PM and while he might announce his reluctance to implement the plan, but would feel obligated since it had been approved by his own party and Washington.

The political scenario will be the following: The right wing National Union faction and National Religious Party will quit the coalition and be replaced by Shimon Peres and Labor. Certain Likud right wingers would cease supporting the government while several left wing Laborites could refuse to join the coalition, but overall one can expect either a Sharon or Netanyahu led coalition to retain its Knesset majority and implement the withdrawal.

The Israeli and foreign media are full of details concerning the alleged wrong doings. The possible fall of a premier due to scandal is certainly big news, however, the Disengagement is much more significant. First, Israel will begin to disentangle from the Palestinian demographic time bomb and the IDF will straighten out its defensive lines. The government (led by Sharon or Netanyahu) will demand an end to Palestinian terrorism, which originally was a prerequisite to peace making in the Road Map. This most certainly will be done in coordination with the US and even possibly Europe.

Israelis will be much more concerned with their own physical security and disengagement from the Palestinians, than to take too much of an interest in who specifically, is prime minister.