Saturday, January 07, 2006

No Joshua

I'm quite sympathetic to Charles Krauthammer's view that Arik Sharon's untimely illness is a calamity for Israel.

...There is no one in the country, let alone in his party, with his prestige and standing. Ehud Olmert, his deputy and now acting prime minister, is far less likely to score the kind of electoral victory that would allow a stable governing majority.

Kadima represents an idea whose time has come. But not all ideas whose time has come realize themselves. They need real historical actors to carry them through. Sharon was a historical actor of enormous proportion, having served in every one of Israel's wars from its founding in 1948, having almost single-handedly saved Israel with his daring crossing of the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and now having broken Israel's left-right political duopoly that had left the country bereft of any strategic ideas to navigate the post-Oslo world. Sharon put Israel on the only rational strategic path out of that wreckage. But, alas, he had taken his country only halfway there when he himself was taken away. And he left no Joshua.

Early indications are that Sharon's Kadima party with Olmert at the helm will still be the largest party after elections and likely to form the basis of government. Without the 'Bulldozer' though the stability and vision of that government will be in doubt. Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud seems unable to capture the popular imagination (unless, though, the Palestinians try for a third intifada once Sharon is 'safely gone') and the untried far left socialist Amir Peretz who ousted Peres at Labour would likely be an economic and strategic disaster.

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