Ariel Sharon, who has served as Israel’s Prime Minister for almost five years, has suddenly found himself as a man without the very Likud party that he formed in 1973.
Likud had a clear platform, which opposed ceding any land to any Arab neighbor without a solid peace treaty, as in the case of Sadat, when Sharon served in the government of PM Menachem Begin, as Agriculture Minister and then as Defence Minister.
Unlike the Likud, Labor and Meretz, all of whom favored various forms of the territories for peace, Sharon abandoned the principle of reciprocity in favor of a position of unilateralism when he instigated the demolition of 25 Jewish communities and the handover of their assets to terrorists.
Until recently, unilateralism had only been the platform of Israel’s Communist Party and Israel’s three Arab political parties which represent that position… Ironically, that unilateral position was remarkably similar to the platform of the ShomTzion Party which was led by Sharon in 1977, which indeed advocated unilateral withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Therefore, Sharon found himself without a political party and without a political base.
So Ariel Sharon organized a party based on loyalty to Ariel Sharon.
People whom Sharon has chosen to join his party are members of the Likud faction of the Knesset who remained supportive of his policies.
Ariel Sharon does have a following in Israel, which is based on widespread admiration for a man who showed courage in the battlefield and as a man who is always willing to take risks and to carry out policies that he believes in.
Likud Ministers such as Ehud Olmert, Meir Shitrit and Tzipi Livni have tied their political careers to the coatails of Ariel Sharon. Apparently, so has Shimon Peres, the stalwart elder statesman of the Israel Labor Party.
The power of incumbency has given Sharon about 30 seats, or 25% of the Knesset, in the initial polls that were taken in the days before Sharon indeed decided to form his own party.
However, it is hard to envision the tenacity and strength of a such a political party.
Now the Likud will draft a candidate for party leadership who will reflect a more clear and less compromising position that Ariel Sharon, which may marginalize Sharon and his supporters.
Ariel Sharon’s “Party for National Responsibility” is riddled with contradictions,led by a tough talking leader whose record of capitulation in negotiation has transformed his image in the Israeli public opinion to a somewhat less than heroic figure.
Israel’s political history in filled with instances when a “centrist” party is formed over night and lasts only one term in office. Such was the case with the Democratic Movement for Change under Yigal Yadin’s leadership in 1977, and such was the case with the Center Party in 1999.
Will Ariel Sharon to fade into Israeli political history, as the greatest political anomaly that Israel has ever produced in its short history? We will know very shortly.