Friday, October 10, 2003

Why Sharon is dangerous

Why Sharon is dangerous

Why Sharon is dangerous

By Gideon Samet

Why? Because he doesn't even try to keep his
promise of peace, and has made his promise of
security worthless. Because he is a bloody
adventurer who scoffs at dangers, even if you pay
the price. Because this week he revived the
incitement against the left over a memorandum of
understanding that was drafted together with
senior Palestinian figures. Because the moves of
an especially skilled tactician are especially dangerous.

Plenty of familiar reasons for
Sharon being a political
ticking bomb spring immediately
to mind. Here are several more
that occur upon second, and
third, thought.

* They believe him: The
incredible and dangerous thing is
that despite everything, most Israelis still
believe him and believe in him. Sharon has
honed the art of political deception to such
precision that its victims become passive, and
even satisfied, observers. This is the Sharon
paradox: The situation under his leadership is
so terrible that the majority, which yearns for
some illusion of an achievement, prefers not to
believe that the situation is as abominable as
it is.

* The success of failure: This is why Sharon is
still able to plant the empty hope that things
will get better - if you'll all just wait a
little bit, and then some more. Under normal
circumstances, this tactic would collapse after
three years of such dissonance between hope and
despair. But Sharon is very dangerous because
of his tremendous ability to get the public,
ordinarily known for its cranky skepticism, to
suspend its disbelief in direct proportion to
the gravity of the national predicament.
Paradox number two promises to keep the Sharon
danger alive: As the country's plight worsens,
Israelis' dependence on a "strongman" who will
rescue them from their troubles grows in equal
measure - even if the purported savior is
largely responsible for getting them into the
mess in the first place. Sharon deserves a
Nobel Prize for his discovery of "The Success
of Failure."

* He has a sense of humor: The aforementioned
contradiction also has a comic effect, as if
directed by Eli Yatzpan. Abba Eban used to say
that Israel is not a banana republic, but a
republic that slips on bananas. Sharon manages
to make his repeated banana-slipping amusing,
while you just keep bruising your backside. He
knows how to giggle just like Yatzpan, how to
be as amiable as blooper impresario Yigal
Shilon. He's even shed his tic. When a
dangerous leader also has a sense of humor,
it's time to put on the flak jackets.

* The enemy as collaborator: Another dangerous
leader who has lost his quiver, Yasser Arafat,
is actually an important ally along Sharon's
twisted road. From Lebanon until today, Arik
has been pursuing Yasser like Sherlock Holmes
on the trail of Moriarty. But there is cause to
suspect that he is not really interested in
Arafat's elimination. If his legendary rival
were gone, Sharon would have to invent a new

As the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy wrote, in
his poem about the distress of Roman senators
who sat futilely "Waiting for the Barbarians"
(also the name of a book about apartheid by
Nobel Prize laureate J. M. Coetzee): "Now
what's going to happen to us without the
barbarians? These people were a kind of
solution." This is another secret of his
dangerous politics - perpetuating the enemy in
order to justify himself. Just wonder what
"difficult time" he could have manipulated
between crises without the Palestinian hook on
which to hang all of our troubles.

* The return of past glory: Amid the national
weakness, Sharon knows how to create
distracting images of power, as with the
dangerous bombing raid in Syria. He once said
that the Israel Defense Forces could even reach
Odessa. In dispatching the air force this way,
he seems to be practicing for a bombing of the
Iranian nuclear reactor. After a month of
revisited suffering on the anniversary of the
Yom Kippur War, the Syrian raid was like a
promise to a dejected nation that the glory of
the Six-Day War, that faded blue-and-white
grandeur, would yet return. Take cover.

* The bleating of the sheep: Beware of devious
leaders who can often be seen gently petting
animals. M's adversary in the James Bond films
wouldn't have been so menacing without that
little kitty in his arms. Sharon soars to the
heights of tenderness when with his bleating
sheep - on his farm and in the government. Come
on, really now, how could such a soft, gentle
man be at all dangerous?

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