With the Labor Party’s exit

With the Labor Party’s exit from the Israeli government, many expect Ariel Sharon to become more hard-line in dealing with the Palestinians, now that his government is dependent on “far-right” political parties to maintain a parliamentary majority. Gerald Steinberg of the Financial Times doubts that this will happen. He believes that, while the Palestinians would like Sharon to become more aggressive, Sharon will resist in order to maintain good relations with the United States. Steinberg thinks that, if necessary, Sharon will call new elections, win them, and then form a new coalition government through which he can continue his current “intermediate-line” policies. I agree with Steinberg’s conclusion but am less sanguine about the efficacy of a policy that avoids tough action in order to placate the U.S. State Department. If Steinberg is right, the Palestinians will escalate their terrorism in the hope that, without the Labor Party to restrain him, Sharon will take action that will gain sympathy for Arafat. While Sharon must be mindful of the views of President Bush, he must also be mindful that, as Barry Goldwater would say, moderation in the fight against terrorists is no virtue.

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