soon and very soon

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sharon's Gamble
By reputation, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is the blunt, armored instrument of Israeli politics.

On the battlefield, Sharon was something like the tanks he led, a visceral juggernaut of a commander dedicated to offensive action. His courage, audacity and intuition inspired personal confidence.

Following Operation Peace in Galilee, the 1982 Israeli attack into Lebanon, one of Sharon's crack troops told me with pride: "Arik is the closest thing in the world to (George) Patton. Serve with him, and you feel it. You'll follow him anywhere."
"Following anywhere" can lead to ambush.

During the 1973 October War, Sharon's tanks barreled into Egyptian infantry positioned along the east bank of the Suez Canal. Sharon's attack was an audacious attempt to push Israeli forces into Egypt. The Egyptians, however, triggered a clever ambush. The Battle of Chinese Farm ended with abandoned and burning Israeli tanks littering the desert. Yet Israeli forces ultimately breached the canal, entered Africa and surrounded an entire Egyptian army.

Will Sharon's stratagem work? It appears Sharon has been maneuvering for months, planning for new elections in spring 2006. The BBC reported initial polls have Sharon beating Likud frontrunner Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor's new populist leader, Amir Peretz.

Past attempts to establish an Israeli "center" have fared poorly, but they weren't led by a man with Sharon's charisma, stamina and defense credentials.

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