Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Natan disappoints - II

Joel Rosenberg in National Review Online massively overplays the impact of Sharansky's resignation from the Israeli cabinet.

Sharansky's influence in Israeli politics is already long spent. His party barely survived the last elections and then happily merged with Likud. The man deserves a great deal of respect and admiration for his personal and political courage, but he no longer has a constituency in Israel. Having already resigned from the Knesset, his resignation from the cabinet leaves him with no public post. He's not even an opposition legislator.

The timing of this resignation is also curious. Why didn't he resign the moment the plan was approved overwhelmingly by the cabinet? It was clear by then that he could no longer stop it. What's new this week that suddenly warrants his resignation? If he is so firmly opposed, why have we hardly heard his voice lately?

The comparison to Sharansky's 2000 resignation over Camp David is misguided. Sharansky then had public opinion behind him, with Barak having already alienated his supporters and with widespread opposition to the depth of his proposed concessions. Today, like it or not, public support for disengagement remains high. Perhaps not insurmountably high, but high enough. And support in the Knesset is insurmountably high.

Barring drastic events, there is no conceivable scenario at the moment in which Sharon's government could fall. There is no indication that Netanyahu, Shalom or Livnat are prepared to risk political suicide to lead the anti-disengagement rebellion. Without them, Sharon is safe.

Cynics observe that Sharansky is presumably fed up with being ignored at home, preferring to lecture to rapturous audiences abroad and sell his book. The resignation will permit him to collect honoraria.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Sharansky "will lobby against the disengagement plan next month when he travels to Washington for a series of speaking engagements, public appearances and meetings with senior American officials." With all due respect, it's the Israelis who need to be persuaded, not the Americans.

I'd like to see Sharansky join the active opposition to disengagement. But I confess I expect to be disappointed.


AbbaGav said...

Of course, it's Israelis who need persuasion, not the US. But Sharansky does appear to have some influence at the very top of the US administration, after all, his book is on President Bush's nightstand. If his resignation were to lower the intensity of American pressure to go ahead (and to continue on afterwards) that would be important influence. I say that without judging the disengagement itself, just pointing out that Sharansky has visibility and influence here that goes beyond the number of seats his party won.

Nice blogging, I'll be back to read more.


Zman Biur said...


Most of the "pressure" behind this plan is coming from Israel, not America. It took Sharon quite some time to persuade the Americans of its merits in the first place. Of course, now that they're on board they won't let Israel back down and embarrass them for their public support. But, as far I as can see, Sharon is pushing the plan for his own reasons, not due to American pressure.

Certainly, American pressure after disengagement will not be affected by a Sharansky speaking tour.

Barry Freedman said...

Sharansky's influence far outstrips anyone else that opposes the "disengagement." He should be encouraged to do whatever he can to stop it. His resignation was a good beginning -- it was the first time the whole world heard some good arguments against the expulsion. Whether it is speaking in Washington next month with President Bush or actively getting involved in civil disobedience or criticizing Sharon's policies and soon to be implemented tactics, Natan Sharansky brings substantial leverage and influence with him that no one else in Israel enjoys. He has returned to his dissident days and we should be grateful and encourage him to take real advantage of his stature.

Zman Biur said...


I don't see Sharansky doing any of the things you mention. And why hasn't he been doing them over the past year?