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The Impact of the Politicians

Understanding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict would be easier if all the leaders on the Israeli side (or the Palestinian side) agreed with one another, but they don't!!

Israeli politics is characterized by wide-open free speech. As a result, Israeli election politics often influence events in the conflict. At the present moment (May 12, 2002), Sharon is gearing up for a re-election bid. His principal opponent is Benjamin Netanyahu (a former Prime Minister of Israel who is seeking to return to power)and who is a member of Sharon's political party, the Likud.

Just today Sharon proposed to the leadership of his party that the official policy should be that Israel accept the inevitibility of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Immediately Netanyahu took the opposite position and influenced the conference of party leaders to vote against Sharon's proposal. Netanyahu is even more of a hawk than Sharon, it seems. His position is absolutely no accommodation with the Palestinians.

So now Prime Minister Sharon has to proceed carefully so he won't lose his party's support in his bid for re-election while Netanyahu has a clear signal from the party that he is in a very strong position to defeat Sharon in the up-coming elections. The opposing party to Likud is the Labor party, and its front-running candidates for Prime Minister are promising unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza strip. And, to make everything thoroughly crazy in Israel, Israel's sizeable number of "peaceniks" have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the on-going violence.

Clearly all of this dissension and turmoil in Israel encourages Arafat and discourages Sharon. Please don't forget, however, that Israel is a Western-style democracy. Just as we tear ourselves apart in Liberal/Conservative squabbling in the U.S. during presidential elections, the tides of Israeli politics are very tempestuous during elections for prime minister. Also, please don't forget, that the issues which fuel the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are more numerous and more serious than the results of any given election in Israel. No matter who wins the next election for prime minister, all those other reasons for an on-going conflict will still be in place.

Nevertheless Arafat has reason to be glad that his old enemy "Bulldozer" Sharon is running into political trouble.

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