Sunday, December 21, 2003

The Speech. I’m still a bit dumbfounded. I think my predictions were largely correct, it went much further then observers were predicting. The implications seem pretty clear: Sharon is laying the groundwork for a unilateral withdrawal. He is doing slowly and incrementally what Barak wanted to do all at once three years ago. Obviously, the territorial absolutists on the Right are going to be incensed, although I think they’ll be tempered a bit in their rhetoric due to the memory of the Rabin assassination. The Palestinianists will also, perhaps surprisingly to some, come out against it with guns blazing, since it turns the main weapon they have, demographics, against them, threatening them with a humanitarian disaster of mammoth proportions. Their main objection, however, will be to the security wall, since it neutralizes their other primary weapon: suicide terrorism. I also very much liked the opening part of the speech, which no one seems to have noticed, where Sharon spoke about internal Israeli issues like social cohesion, the religious divide (somewhat obliquely), and noted that these issues can't be put off until the elusive peace is obtained and have to be dealt with now. I found that very encouraging. I live in a poor city and I can see the difference in the way my neighbors live and the way people live in Herzliya and Tel Aviv.

It was, all in all, a supremely hopeful speech. Perhaps that sounds odd, since the primary criticism of it is going to be that it is capitulatory and defeatist, but it held out, to me at least, the prospect that Israel may have turned an ideological corner, and we may be on the crest of resolving some of those debates which have so bitterly and lamentably divided this country since 1967. I think the dream of the Left is coming true, we are withdrawing from the territories and returning to ourselves. The only catch is that the Right is going to accomplish it. As I have said before, I don’t see that as a defeat. It fact, the opposite, it wins us a future. Our enemies may rejoice for days, but we will rejoice for generations. That is the greatest possible victory.


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