255. Bush, Sharon will face dilemmas

No doubt that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power will eliminate, as Michael Freund put it in The Jerusalem post (March 12), “one of the greatest existential threats to the State of Israel.” Because Iraq has enough financial and human resources to develop conventional and non-conventional weapons, Israel made it a top priority to eliminate such potential. Hence its total support for the war on Iraq.

Sharon’s dilemma is that once the war is over, Bush’s administration’s attention will turn toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, before the war has even started, Bush referred on March 14 to the famous “road map” which basically calls for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state by 2005. According to Yediot Ahronot (March 3), “Sharon has handed more than 100 reservations to the president’s plan, and, in effect, emptied it of its meaning.”

To appreciate Sharon’s dilemma, a closer look at two parties in his coalition will suffice. Both, the National Union-Israel Beteinu and the National Religious Party (Mafdal), oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. Both of them are against the dismantling of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. The former is also for the “transfer” (i.e. ethnic cleansing) of the Palestinian population.

In this context, Bush might win the war against Iraq and lose his presidency. Israeli columnist, Chemi Shalev, has this advice: “If Bush wants to avoid his father’s fate, he’ll be very careful about getting into a confrontation with Israel and its Jewish supporters” (Maariv, Feb. 7).

March 15, 2003