Ever since the Prime Minister unveiled his disengagement plan
people have been asking, What happened to Sharon? What kind
of transformation did he undergo? How is it that one of the
most right-wing figures on the political scene, the founder
and leader of the settlement movement, suddenly changed his
stripes, adopting a distinctly left-wing policy?
So far an accurate answer to this question has not come
forth. When Sharon tried to explain his turnaround nobody
believed a word he said.
Several theories have been offered to explain Sharon's
peculiar policy change: he wanted to get into the history
books, to win a Nobel Prize, to receive recognition from the
left-wing media or perhaps extract the Sharon family from the
criminal charges against them. But with Sharon's trip to the
US to meet with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney
and other ranking government officials, the possibility of a
connection between the disengagement plan and the Iranian
nuclear program was raised.
For obvious reasons Israel is demanding that the US do
everything it can to prevent Iran from developing nuclear
capabilities. The coming six months is critical because the
Iranians are coming very close to "the point of no return."
After that it will be too late to take action.
Last week Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz appeared in the
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee saying that
the time has come for the Americans to demand Europe take the
lead in handling the Iranian issue.
The US has launched two military confrontations in recent
years. One in Afghanistan against the Taliban regime and Al
Qaeda, and another in Iraq to depose despot Saddam Hussein.
To this day the Americans continue to get mired deep in the
mud in Iraq, where they have suffered numerous casualties.
The US public will invariably be very reluctant to give
President Bush the green light to launch a third military
operation, especially with Iran on the other side of the
Iran is a symbol of the Arab world and the US would need more
than a good excuse to launch a military action or an action
combining diplomacy and military forces. The Arab and Muslim
world would find it very hard to accept military US activity
or sanctions against Iran, especially since it would
associate such a move with a desire to defend Israel.
Recently it was claimed the disengagement plan is essentially
a deal the Americans made with Sharon. The State of Israel
would withdraw from the Gaza Strip and evacuate the
settlements thereby alleviating some of the tension between
Israel and the Arab world over the Palestinian issue and in
exchange the US would do its part with the Iranians. Thus the
engagement plan—and perhaps other plans we have yet to
find out about—was born . . .
The day after the Knesset adjourned for Pesach, Knesset
Chairman Reuven Rivlin set out for a round of visits in
Central and South America. In his absence one of his
deputies, Moshe Kahalon (Likud), was appointed to replace
him. Since the law states when the president is out of the
country the Knesset chairman serves as his replacement, when
Katzav traveled abroad a few days after Rivlin's departure
Kahalon became acting president as well.
Then Sharon flew to the US and it was discovered for a period
of four hours there was nobody left in the country to replace
him. His usual replacement, Ehud Olmert, was out of the
country and Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres was, as usual,
out of the country too. Even Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
was out of the country.
Under these circumstances according to law any one of the
government ministers can fill the post of Prime Minister and
one of the proposals was to appoint . . . Moshe Kahalon. The
person behind the suggestion jokingly said in the last week
Kahalon had accumulated a wealth of experience in replacing
high-ranking figures and therefore nobody was better suited
for the job of acting prime minister.