The comeback kid skips town

By Yoel Marcus Sharon dropped the bombshell of disengagement from Gaza and evacuation of all its settlements 18 months ago. The news aroused shock and anger in the Likud and among the rebels and right wingers in the government. The big mystery is why the Little Prince, Benjamin Netanyahu, decided the best time to quit the government was now, with the pullout just days away. What did he do? Find out just yesterday it was going to happen and it goes against his daddy’s principles? Or is he using the disengagement as a way of distracting hundreds of thousands of poor and hungry, who might otherwise blame him, as the finance minister of the billionaires, for their misery? If Netanyahu really couldn’t live with Sharon’s initiative, there were several options open to him. He could have shot down the plan in the government and Knesset; he could have mobilized a majority of 61 votes to replace Sharon; or he could have quit the government, dragging the right-wing parties with him. In fact they did leave, but Bibi stayed. And not only did he stay, but also lent his tacit support to the decision that formally endorsed the disengagement plan. The man was always a big talker and a lousy doer. He portrayed the plan as a national catastrophe, but never called upon his friends and supporters in the center to rally around the flag when he still could. There are several reasons why. One of them was lack of political courage and the fear that he might find himself back on the doorstep, as had happened twice before. Another was his concern that he might not be able to drum up enough votes to topple Sharon. But his biggest mistake was assuming that the government would implement the withdrawal in four stages, each of which would be brought to a vote. This way, he thought, he could block one segment and sabotage the disengagement just before the clock struck midnight. The moment he realized Sharon intended to withdraw in one fell swoop, he decided that was it he was out of there. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Bibi was gone, Uzi Landau jumped up and announced that he was running for prime minister. After his dramatic resignation, with all the interviews and headlines he grabbed, Netanyahu has now decided it’s time to fly to the United States. That way he won’t be caught leading the mass rally of Israelis in Orange and their rabbis at Rabin Square. A typical Bibiyahu maneuver: skipping town. His political foe Ehud Barak describes it as stabbing Sharon in the back. „Even in the toughest of times, running away has never been an option for Sharon,” says Barak. „From the moment he gets on the horse, he doesn’t get off. Even murder doesn’t scare him. Nothing is going to block his path or budge him one iota. Next week, Sharon begins his historic initiative and we have an obligation to help him.” This, from the mouth of Ehud Barak. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called Bibi’s resignation an unscrupulous political move. The Likud surveys have gone to his head. Until today he doesn’t understand that the Likud’s power is mostly in local government, and the interests of these functionaries are totally different from those of the rebels, who are outsiders. After Sharon carries out the disengagement, Bibi will go up in a puff of smoke, says Shalom. These in-house polls may have inflated Bibi’s ego, but the person who determines how many MKs the Likud gets is the person who can muster the largest number of votes from people on the outside. In running away, the Comeback Kid is showing cowardice. His actions are founded on the expectation, or maybe the macabre hope, that the disengagement will work out badly and develop into a bloody war between the settlers and those who are sent in to evacuate them. As a man with no inhibitions, I wouldn’t put it past him to be praying for a barrage of mortar shells and Qassams right in the middle of the pullout, setting off Intifada III and blowing up Sharon’s initiative in his face. But sources in the defense establishment are saying that the disengagement will be carried out quickly and without insurmountable problems. When the withdrawal is complete, Israel will be the darling of the world. In November, when Israel marks the 10th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, a parade of global leaders will head this way and the Palestinians will also want to meet with them to discuss the next stages in the move toward an agreement. This is the week to strengthen the hand of Sharon, the man with the vision and the courage to extricate us from the Gaza Strip and free us from the curse it has brought upon us. BPI-info