Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Teves 5763 - December 18, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Appeal of Realism

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was elected almost two years ago, promising to bring peace and security. So far he has done neither -- yet he was chosen by a large margin as leader of the Likud and is the leading candidate for prime minister.

Sharon has now been in office for 21 months. This is long enough to have a record of achievement or at least to show progress. Peace is certainly not here and seems no closer than it was when Sharon took over. Security has been worse in the past, but the constant attacks and especially the murder of 23 in one recent week in Chevron and Yerushalayim, mean that Sharon has not yet delivered on his promise to provide security.

What about his performance on the economy? It was already in decline when Sharon took over, but it has only gone downhill from then. Everyone is hoping for things to turn around, but no one can promise that the bottom has already been reached. It could be worse, of course, but that truth is hardly likely to win Sharon any support.

With all this so painfully obvious, why do the polls show the Likud under Sharon doubling its strength in the Knesset?

Merely to say, as some observers do, that the Israeli electorate has shifted to the right, does not explain it at all. Binyamin Netanyahu, Sharon's rival within the Likud, tried his hardest to be even more right than Sharon, and he lost badly.

Moreover, Sharon's announced program if he is elected is just for more of the same. He had not promised to take any dramatic steps, and says that he hopes to bring peace but he is very reserved on how he plans to achieve that.

Sharon's leading rival is Amram Mitzna, leader of the Labor Party. Mitzna promises to bring peace and he is very clear about how he will do so. He will open negotiations with whoever is the leader of the Palestinians (including Arafat) and he will withdraw and dismantle some settlements.

Netanyahu also said clearly what he planned to do: first of all to expel Arafat, and then get tough with the Palestinians.

The trouble is that even those who believe that either of these proposals is good, do not believe that either of these politicians will actually do what they say they will do. As a former general, Mitzna is hardly likely to withdraw in the face of the strong opposition of the security establishment. It is also no secret that Sharon would also like to get rid of Arafat but has so far been unable to do so.

In short, Sharon promises nothing more than a continuation of the current situation and efforts to improve it. Everyone believes that he can deliver this. His rivals promise dramatic solutions to all our ills, but no one believes that they can deliver that.

People trust Sharon and know that he stands behind his word. If he says peace with security, people are more confident than with others that he will insist on both. US President Bush also seems to trust Sharon. Although there appears to be no special chemistry between the two, they do seem to have a good working relationship. This relationship is very important to Sharon.

A Labor party strategist said that Mitzna represents hope and Sharon desperation, but he admitted that the country at this time is more desperate than hopeful.

A Likud strategist might suggest that Mitzna represents wishful thinking and Sharon realism. Right now it seems that what the electorate wants is realism.

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