Magazine article The American Conservative

Beyond Sharon

Magazine article The American Conservative

Beyond Sharon

Article excerpt

How does one explain the preoccupation of Washington officials and leading news outlets with the health of Ariel Sharon? Consider this sampling of headlines: "Sharon Resumes Breathing, Moves Hand, Leg"; "Sharon Starts Breathing But Still Critical"; "PM's Associates Optimistic; Say He Coughed, Moved." Or the speculation about who will head the political party he formed, Kadima, with the media providing bios of almost every Israeli political apparatchik. And then there are the tributes, long on words and sentimental accounts of Sharon's life story, including interviews with his high-school teachers.

Sharon's death, we are told, could bring an end to the peace process, make it impossible to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, lead to a full-blown Middle East war, including nuclear exchanges between Israel and Iran, a devastating oil crisis, the collapse of the Global Economy, and who knows what else.

Concerns over the critically ill Sharon led Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cancel a planned trip to Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, and to Australia, a key U.S. ally in the Pacific. Rice stayed, according to Reuters, "to liaise in Washington with President George W. Bush's other top foreign policy aides without the problems of time differences." She is worried that with Sharon not expected to return to politics the Bush administration's bid to resolve the Middle East conflict might be stalled because no other Israeli official has the clout to push a settlement.

But before the White House announces the creation of a special federal agency to deal with Sharon's health problems and CNN launches a daily news program entitled "Sharon's Stroke: A Global Catastrophe," let's put things in perspective.

Israel is a small state with 6 million citizens and a client of the United States. Yes, it's an important military power in a strategic part of the world. But so are Indonesia and Australia.

Moreover, there hasn't been any peace process for a long time, and neither Sharon nor the U.S. has done much to revive it. If anything, Sharon has argued that since there was no chance of getting the Israeli-Palestinian talks restarted, his government would take unilateral steps to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and eventually parts of the West Bank.

The withdrawal from Gaza and the removal of about 9,000 Jewish settlers who lived there-it was Sharon who had helped settle them there in the first place-have been backed by more than 70 percent of Israeli voters based on cost-benefit considerations of Israeli interests. …

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