Monday, May 13, 2002

On the radio last week, I heard a senior MK from the Likud party (Yisrael Katz) interviewed on why his party's central committee was intent on passing a resolution against a Palestinian state.

He was not calm at all; the main things that he conveyed were: harsh resentment for Sharon, and the message that if Sharon dislikes party interference he can avoid it by hewing better to the party line (which for Katz seems to be 80s Yitzchak-Shamir-type dogma).

I'm not sure to what extent Katz represents what the Likud is like these days, but I can't see indications that his man Netanyahu will really do things much differently.

Netanyahu says that he supports Palestinian self-government without a state - but that's a distinction without a difference. Netanyahu doesn't want to be diplomatically hamstrung any more than Sharon does and in the likely event that he becomes next Prime Minister, he will probably be endorsing formulas similar to the ones that Sharon is promoting now.

I remember speaking to a friend from a right-wing think tank back in the Netanyahu era. There had been a terrorist attack in the Mahane Yehuda market. Bibi's line was that time had come for "reciprocity" and that Israel land concessions had to be answered with action against terror, that he didn't expect 100% results but he did expect 100% effort from Arafat etc. etc.

At the time I thought that Bibi was really starting to get tough, and that he might get results from Arafat. Said friend and Ariel Sharon were against further land concessions. When Netanyahu was in power, Ariel Sharon was his critic from the right. Now that Sharon is in power the roles have been reversed.

Sharon has been more effective that Netanyahu was - primarily due to traditional political virtues that enabled him to maintain a governing coalition and conduct an effective military campaign. Netanyahu is more youthful, suave, and American-style. This makes him a much better spokeman of course, but it hasn't shown him to be a better leader. In his first go-round he exhibited a tendency towards selfish political calculations that lost him most of his allies. The news from the Likud central committee sounds to me like more of the same.

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