In his attempt at reinventing himself, Ariel Sharon, Israels Likud candidate for prime minister in the upcoming February 6 elections, is claiming supernatural powersi.e. the ability to accomplish the impossible
On the one hand, Sharon claims to be able to deliver peace with the Palestinians and with the Arab world while promising, on the other hand, to annex Palestinian territory, maintain all Israeli settlements, impose Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, totally negate the Palestinian refugees right of return, and wreak havoc among the Palestinians should they dare protest.
Thus he seems to suffer from the illusion that he can offer less than Baraks already unacceptable offer and miraculously invent a Palestinian counterpart who will jump for joy at the chance of relinquishing more Palestinian lands and rights.
Conceptually, Sharons impaired vision seems to discern a non-existent Palestinian willingness to enter into a new and prolonged interim phase, to continue negotiating ad absurdum, while Sharon continues to create more facts on the ground pending a distant (not entirely definite) final agreement.
With the same shortsightedness, Sharon has ruled out disengagement or separation as an option in favor of more fatal togetherness in the unnatural context of settlements, economic dependency, and territorial control.
If Barak (and all previous Israeli governments since 1967) could not contain or digest the Palestinians wholesale, Sharon seems to think that his voracious appetite is reason enough for biting off much, much more than he can chew.
The type of apartheid integration envisaged by Sharon will eventually lead to the de facto realization of a bi-national state after a prolonged period of suffering and bloodshed.
In addition, Sharons threat to resort to violence and to the iron fist tactics that have stigmatized his style of decision-making with indelible blood is the cynical refuge of the politically and morally bankrupt
He can also ask Barak who is leaving no stone unturned in pursuing a brutal policy of violence on the rampage in his attempts to quash the intifada and batter the Palestinians into submissionto no avail
Better yet, Sharon should take a stroll down memory lane himself and reexamine his own bloodstained record.
What he had failed to accomplish with his notorious Unit 101 and such massacres as that of Qibya, or such collective cruelty as the Gaza campaign of 1972, or the horrific Sabra and Shatilla massacres of 1982, he will undoubtedly fail to achieve in 2001 with more of the same.
The situation is pregnant with even greater irony.
Sharon, who had been deemed unfit to hold the post of minister of defense in 1982, suddenly perceives himself (or is being perceived by a large segment of the Israeli electorate) to be suited to the post of prime minister.
Sharon, who had brought more shame and disgrace on Israel, its global image and moral standing, is now claiming the right to lead it towards his type of peace and security.
As a military vigilante with a record of violations requiring more investigations than any other leader, Sharon is now seeking the opportunity to take his legacy to its natural conclusiona needless, wasteful, and tragic war of his own making.
Ironically also, Sharon is reinventing himself as the benign grandfatherly figure capable of looking after his electorate while he charges straight into another conflagration of horrendous proportions.
He claims to have interlocutors and counterparts among the Palestinians and Arabsassuming that they had all succumbed to the instant collective amnesia that seems to have afflicted the Israeli public.
Yet more ironically, Sharon has shifted the terrain of his own campaign to the peace-making territory of his opponent, while Barak seems to be competing on the Likud terrain of oppression and violence.
Thus each is guaranteed a loss of ground on his own turf without annexing the others territory.
The kinder, gentler Sharon that his image-makers and spin-doctors are busy manufacturing may withstand scrutiny, provided he kept his mouth shut (as his own campaign managers are asserting).
In the meantime, other extremist members of his camp are having difficulty keeping their own mouths shut, betraying the thinly-disguised agenda of Sharons far right with threats of doom and gloom.
Avigdor Lieberman from Sharons own election team (not to mention the likes of Rahbaam Zeevi) leaves little room for conjecture in his declared threats to plunge the whole region into a new inferno including the bombing of Iran, Egypt, and Lebanon while destroying Palestinian cities altogether.
One may conclude, then, that the Israeli public is voting for a political ventriloquist, a war criminal with no history, a braggart with no voice, a leader with no vision, and a warmonger with no peace agenda.
Ultimately, the Israelis are the ones who will pay the price for the twice-felt shame that is Sharon.
For the Palestinians, Barak has left us with very little to fear from Sharon in the area of murder and mayhem.
If peace is far with Barak, it will only become more unattainable with Sharon.
Sharon, however, will bring the added ingredient of universal condemnation and repulsion that will stigmatize Israel and subject it to closer scrutiny, accountability, and condemnation.
Regardless of the outcome of elections, no Israeli prime minister can enjoy the longevity of a full term in office given the contradictory nature of the mission impossible that seems to prevailpeace and security on the one hand, and denial of Palestinian rights on the other.
Until there is genuine clarity of vision within the Israeli body politic and leadership, Israel (and the region) had better get used to a period of instability, of rapid government changes, of constant let downs and false promises, of floundering leadership and loss of directionin short, a pendulum swinging to both extremes of futility and frustration.
Peace cannot be tailored to accommodate the power of the occupier and to incorporate conditions of injustice and victimization created by decades of unaccountable occupation and oppression.
All aspiring candidates, from whichever party in Israel, would be well advised to glean the proper lessons from the repeated and rapid failures of their predecessors.
Real separation is that which severs all ties with occupation and its mentality of domination and acquisition, threat and intimidation.
Real power comes with the empowerment of the Palestinian people and the recognition of the legitimacy of their rights.
Real leadership is that which is not only capable of reading history, but also of charting the course of a future unfettered by inequities of the past.
Until then, reality cannot be put on hold and the dynamic of tragic conflict may prove more powerful than that of hesitant peace.
Sharons threat of war (as inherent in his fraudulent peace agenda) may yet be the most powerful self-fulfilling prophecy.