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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"WE KILLED RABIN, WE WILL ALSO KILL SHARON"

Or so read the front page of an Israeli newspaper this morning in a picture of graffiti found near Jerusalem's city center, likely written by extremist religious Jews like the ones who assassinated former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin exactly nine years ago today. The headline eerily came one day after Sharon's overwhelming victory at Tuesday's Likud Vote on the implementation of his Disengagement Plan.

What does the Prime Minister's victory mean? Well he still has to get the process through a few legal hurdles but it would appear that indeed Sharon's plan will come to fruition, meaning that by the end of 2005 there will no longer be any Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, limiting the only Israeli military presence to the Phildelphi Route, the highway which separates Gaza from Egypt. A presence which would be used to make sure a massive flow of arms or terrorists aren't flowing into the small Mediterranean Strip.

I was extremely discouraged with some of the Israeli political leadership's behavior the last few days, especially Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu. The American educated, well-spoken former-Prime Minister and current Finance Minister played total politics with the Disengagement Vote, trying to undermine Sharon's plan and use his popularity with the far-Israeli Right to possibly usurp Sharon and take over his government. Israeli leaders use to be like gods; Ben-Gurion, Dayan, Meir, Rabin, Begen, Ebban. Now it's all about ego and undermining the security of your own country, just to jocky for power. It's like American politics.



Originally Netanyahu said he would vote against the Plan, when Sharon warned he would fire any minister of his government that voted against the plan, Netanyahu and a few other rogue Ministers were absent from the first vote, and then later showed up for the second vote, ultimately voting in favor of the Prime Minister's plan.

Later yesterday night Netanyahu demanded that Sharon hold a national referendum on the Disengagement Plan within 14 days or he and ministers Livnat, Yisrael Katz and and Danny Naveh would all quit. Sharon has already ruled out the possibilityof a national referendum and it appears that he will now go ahead with the disengagement ASAP. It will be real interesting to see what Netanyahu does. He was the one who originally called for the Knesset vote and that blew up in his face, now he faces the same result if Sharon refuses to hold national vote or if he does hold one and it passes, which by all polls appears that it most likely would.

The disengagement plan is a great move for Israel and one that only Sharon, long a fierce defender of illegal settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, could pull off. Having troops defending a few hundreds of Israelis inside Gaza is a strategic nightmare for the Israeli Defense Forces. Sharon's plan shows that he is an honest partner in any peace negotiations who has seen the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a new light since taking office. The move to disengage from a few settlements in Gaza means that the Bush Administration will likely be more lenient with Israeli in any final status negotiations about the extent of Israel's current borders as opposed to those which have developed naturally, including some settlements, since 1949.


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