BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
The hawk in the wings
WHEN FORMER prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu mounted a political
assault Sunday on Israel's serving Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
Netanyahu demonstrated why people speak of blind ambition.
At a meeting
of his Likud Party's Central Committee, Netanyahu sprang a trap
on Sharon - a resolution saying that ''no Palestinian
state will be established west of the Jordan River.''
has said he accepts the eventual establishment of a Palestinian
state, thereby aligning Israel with President Bush and an international
consensus, Likud's overwhelming approval of Netanyahu's resolution
placed Sharon in the position of trying to govern Israel in a time
of crisis while being denounced on a crucial issue by his own party.
The fact that
Central Committee members who voted for the resolution were elected
when Netanyahu was prime minister does not alter the predicament
facing Sharon and those of his Cabinet ministers who are from Likud.
If Sharon goes along with US peacemaking efforts, which are all
premised on the common objective of a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then he and his fellow Likud ministers
will be forced to choose between the government and their party
- between Sharon and Netanyahu, known as Bibi.
For the political
meaning of Netanyahu's victory at the raucous Likud Central Committee
meeting Sunday night is clear to all: Whenever the next Israeli
general election is held, Bibi will be the Likud candidate for prime
minister, and unless the political climate changes radically, he
will be elected.
against a Palestinian state was Bibi's way of announcing that he
is the next prime minister waiting in the wings and that if Sharon
attempts to do anything in violation of Netanyahu's strictures,
Likud ministers serving in Sharon's Cabinet should resign and bring
down the government.
hardly coy about those strictures Sunday night. Shouting down hecklers
loyal to Sharon, he castigated the former general for ending his
military attacks on West Bank towns prematurely, for permitting
Yasser Arafat to walk out of his besieged compound in Ramallah and
resume his leadership role in the West Bank, for proposing a regional
summit meeting, and for assenting to a Palestinian state.
terms, the springing of Bibi's trap has the paradoxical effect of
empowering the Labor Party's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who
holds the power to decide whether to sustain or bring down Sharon's
government. Diplomatically, Netanyahu has entrapped Israel in the
role of the nation that rejects the negotiated two-state solution
the United States and the rest of the world are ready to help bring
into being. Bibi may be helping his career but not his country.
This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 5/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.