Ariel Sharon has declared war on the USA.
It can’t be defined any other way.
He has not declared war on the Palestinians, because that
is not necessary. The military confrontation between Israel and the
Palestinian people has already been going on for a long time, and
nothing has changed this week. But in Israeli-American relations there
has been a dramatic change.
Thursday, a plane flying from Tel-Aviv to Siberia was
brought down. When the terrible news arrived, Sharon at once ordered a
press-conference to be called at prime television time, to be broadcast
live on all Israeli television and radio stations. As usual, the media
stood to attention and followed orders.
Sharon was sure that the plane was brought down by
terrorists (who else?) and intended to exploit the incident for a
dramatic indictment of Arafat, "bin Laden’s twin brother." But the bad
Americans spoiled the performance out of sheer spite: at the very last
moment they announced that the plane was actually shot down by a
But Sharon was already on his way to battle. When this
happens to him, no force on earth can stop him. Like a bull, he charges
This time he had prepared something special. "He has
written the speech himself," his assistants announced proudly. And,
indeed, nobody else could have, except the loonies of the extreme right.
Addressing the "Western democracies, headed by the United
States," Sharon compared the present situation of Israel to that of
Czechoslovakia in 1938. The comparison is obvious: Arafat is Hitler,
"the Arabs" (all of them) are the fascist axis, George Bush is Neville
Chamberlain, the Americans are about to sell Israel down the river in
order to appease the Arabs. Munich 2001.
Pedantic historians could point to some faults in this
comparison. At that time, Germany was a mighty military power facing
little Czechoslovakia. While in today’s Middle East the situation is the
opposite: Israel is the mighty military power and the Palestinians are a
small and weak people. Furthermore, Germany was not living under a Czech
occupation. Bush is not waving an umbrella, like Chamberlain, but a
sword. He is building a great coalition for starting a war.
But Sharon does not pretend to be a historian. Like his
companions and partners, he lives in the world of his own images, cut
off from international reality. He does not care two hoots about
America’s geopolitical considerations, particularly when they are trying
to build a coalition with the Arabs and other Muslims. To make this
possible, the Americans must bring about an end to the Palestinian
uprising, which inflames the masses in all Arab countries. They must
prove that they are striving for a peace that will satisfy the national
requirements of the Palestinians.
Because of this Bush declared that the Palestinian state
is a "vision", and Colin Powell is preparing a peace plan for the Middle
East, after consulting with the Saudi prince.
Israeli peace activists see this as a positive
development. They know that at this point in time only foreign
intervention can put an end to the violence and promote the peace. The
daily bloodbath, the calls for vengeance on both sides and the mutual
lack of confidence prevent an Oslo-style face-to-face
Israeli-Palestinian dialogue without intermediaries.
But for Sharon, any such intervention would be a disaster.
It would lead to a cease-fire that would compel him to stop all the
settlement activity that is so close to his heart and is also the basis
of his government coalition. These days, thinly disguised new
settlements are being set up at a frantic speed, dozens of others were
set up in the last few months under the auspices of the IDF.
In this situation, Sharon must choose between to options:
either to be flexible and then quietly sabotage the American initiative,
or to stand up and fight the Americans. Shimon Peres, his close
associate, counsels him to choose the first option. After all, since
1948 there have been dozens of American "peace plans" and all of them
were buried by Israel with the help of the Jewish lobby, the members of
Congress and the American media. So why not now, too?
But Sharon is made of different stuff. He is starting a
head-on attack on the Bush administration, at a time when the Jewish
lobby does not dare to open its mouth and Congress, as well as the
media, are marching obediently behind the President.
One thousand eight hundred and sixty nine years ago, the
Jewish leader Bar-Kochba declared war on the Roman Empire and brought
about the total destruction of the Jewish people in Palestine. Now the
new Bar-Kochba challenges the American empire. It will be interesting to
see what the result will be this time.