Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bibi blew it, so now Israel suffers

NY Daily News
By Sidney Zion

If Benjamin Netanyahu had gone along with Ariel Sharon last fall, he'd be picking his cabinet today.

All he had to do was shut his mouth, raise his hand for the Gaza pullout and he'd be back again as prime minister of Israel.

Because he didn't do nothing, today he presides over a Likud Party that no longer means anything, a party reduced to a fourth-rate rump group in the newly elected Knesset.

What this means goes way beyond Bibi Netanyahu's career. The Israeli election practically guarantees political instability in the Jewish state.

If Bibi hadn't challenged Sharon in the Likud, Arik would have never left Likud, the party he created, to set up his new party, Kadima.

Kadima, a hybrid party, has depended on Sharon's charisma to be born and to survive.

Kadima in Hebrew is Forward but, without the guidance of Sharon, Backward is just around the corner.

If Bibi had stuck, Likud would have a Knesset majority that no other group could seriously challenge. And this would make Israel a democracy that would stand for years.

Sharon's stroke changed everything, but it wouldn't have been so severe had he not left Likud. There were those close to him who advised him to stay the course. They reminded him of his role as the boss, and if he fought Bibi and the dissidents, he'd have won.

The man who persuaded him to quit Likud was Ehud Olmert. Olmert hates Netanyahu, whom he viewed as his opponent in the race to be prime minister.

The world press presented Olmert as Sharon's close confidant, the man whom he would pick as his successor. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Arik never trusted Olmert, and while he had very good reason to feel the same way about Bibi, if pick came to choice, he'd go with Netanyahu.

But the way things go in Israeli politics, there'd be no choice.

If Likud was the winner, Bibi was the automatic new prime minister.

Except that Bibi forgot the rule he learned as a guy who grew up in America: When you go out to guzump the world, you finally run out of people and you end up guzumping yourself.

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