Sharon’s big bang

I’ve frequently complained here about the obtuse nature of Israeli politics and the Israeli political system by contrast with the brilliance of so much of the rest of Israeli life. In its editorial on the abandonment by Ariel Sharon of the political party he helped create, the Jerusalem Post expresses guarded optimism on the potential for the clarification of the voters’ choices: “Sharon’s big bang.” The Post writes, for example:

Clear choices like this are democracy’s friend. The prospect of a ruling party that would continue to be in constant struggle with its own prime minister was not just unpleasant for Sharon, it was also debilitating for our democracy. We did not get a chance, as an electorate, to vote on disengagement before the fact; now it is to be hoped, we will have a better sense of what we are voting for.

“It is to be hoped” seems to be the operative phrase. In earlier elections, Sharon expressly opposed unilateral disengagement from Gaza. His policy seemed to contrast starkly with the Labor Party’s advocacy of withdrawal, a position that came into disrepute after the failure of Oslo and unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon. Observers such as Rick Richman have offered hypotheses regarding the evolution of Sharon’s policy and its relation to understandings with the Bush administration, but I have yet to see a good explanation of what happened in the context of Israeli politics.

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