Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Contra Hornik?

I don't write about Israel much -- the Signal-to-Noise ratio generally isn't good once the topic is broached -- but a friend sent a recommend for David Hornik's article Against the Sharon Cult over at FrontPageMag. Said link-love, btw, being part of an amicable argument over my recent decision not to waste time on FPM when gathering commentary material to abstract for Rational Review News Digest. After reading over my email response, I thought the substance of it was worth sharing. So here it is (with post-email changes noted in brackets):

The problem with Hornik's piece in FPM is that it starts from a false premise -- that there's some kind of media buildup of Sharon as "the only Israeli leader who could make peace." Everything I've seen is 180 degrees opposite -- the anti-Israelis hate him and consider him a warmonger for (insert excuse here -- the wall, the aggressive program of assassinating "Palestinian" [terror] kingpins instead of just trying to fend off their underlings, etc.), and the pro-Israelis seem him not as a peacemaker but as a capitulator.

The common thread in the media lionizing of Sharon is not that he has been a "peacemaker" but that he's been a strongman who's been able to ram his plans, whatever they happen to be, through over considerable opposition in Likud, in the Knesset, and in Israel generally, and then politically survive their implementation even when that came down to publicly dragging settlers from their homes by the hair of their heads.

Since the article starts from a false premise, it immediately falls apart. There's no "peacemaker" image to tear down -- Hornik is tilting at a strawman, and probably not even needfully. Bibi [Binyamin Netanyahu] will make short work of any "peacemaker" rhetoric and call Sharon out for what he was ... a mob boss who parlayed his military resume into a lucrative career in getting his way -- whether that way coincided with Israel's interest in securing a genuine peace or not.

On re-reading the article, I do have to say that the problem isn't so much with Hornik's analysis of Sharon's character and actions as with his belief that there's some kind of media campaign to paint Sharon as a peacenik. I may have been hasty in my reply. On the former point, he gets it right:

The fact that Sharon remained popular is more connected to pathology -- a decline toward Third World standards and desperate clinging to a leader-cult—than to rationality.

The unstable political house of cards which Sharon built in Israel (and which will quickly collapse with his passing, wrecking most of that which lies in its shadow) was made possible by the situation of Israel itself. After more than half a century, Israel is still unable to bring an end to its state of continuing, variable-intensity war.

Let me emphasize unable. The Jews remain unwilling to march into the sea; their enemies remain unwilling to settle up and shake hands for any concession of a lesser sort. One side is right on this particular point and one side is wrong, folks. Israeli intransigence on reasonable grounds versus Arab intransigence on unreasonable grounds can't produce peace. Ever.

What it can produce -- and has -- are contests in the Arab world to see which "leader" can stick his head furthest down the Lion of Judah's throat without getting it snapped off, or which one can extort the most money from those who naively believe money will buy peace from extortionists (i.e. the US), and contests in Israel to see which "leader" can keep the situation tamped down enough for people to live in a state of less-than-constant fear ... whether that tamping takes an aggressive or appeasing form. Sharon played both both sides of that game to his own (although not necessarily Israel's) benefit, and spared no dirty trick in the competition. My disagreement with Hornik is purely on the point of whether or not the media and various hangers-on are rushing to worship at the "peacy" part of his "legacy."

Netanyahu -- whom I predict (a fairly safe prediction, I think; Kadima without Sharon and without Sharon's manipulative ability is an empty sack) will be Prime Minister again after the next elections -- will pick one side of the game (no need to guess which side) and play it to the hilt. Whether or not one agrees with the arguments underlying his position, it's worth remembering that both Israeli and Arab casualties in the ongoing war dropped dramatically last time he sat in that chair. Sans a real resolution of the conflict -- which can't be achieved until the Arabs give up their demand that Israelis either commit mass suicide or bare their necks for genocide -- that's a concrete achievement worth seeking.

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