Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Not the Prince of Peace

Foreign Policy: Not the Prince of Peace: "Ariel Sharon is being hailed as the man who created the best chance for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In fact, he made it unlikely that a real peace process will ever happen.

Technically, Ariel Sharon still lives. But in his slow-motion departure, he is already acquiring an aura that will affect, and perhaps distort, Israeli politics for years to come. It is Sharon the warrior-turned-peacemaker who faltered, tragically, just shy of his goal. Yet Sharon’s path would not have led to a lasting peace. Although his supporters hail him as the man who broke the taboo on dismantling settlements and ceding occupied Palestinian land, his more fundamental legacy was to show that there is a way for Israel to move forward without negotiating with the Palestinians. He also made it less likely for there to be anyone Israel is willing to negotiate with. His actions arguably contributed to Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian election on January 25. Sharon thus set in motion a process that may bring about a Palestinian state of sorts, but not an end to the conflict.

That, then, is Sharon’s dangerous legacy. He abandoned the “win-win” philosophy of bilateral peace talks for a “win-lose” approach of unilateral moves designed to keep Israel in charge of the process. The strategy was less risky for Israel in the short term, but damaging to both sides in the long run. And since low-risk short-termism is how governments—particularly Israeli coalition governments—tend to operate, it will be extremely hard for future prime ministers to reverse the trend that Sharon set. "

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