David BedeinThe writer is the director of the Israel Resource News Agency & The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd. His website is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
After all, all three pretenders for party leadership--Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former Minister of Public Security Uzi Landau, are well known as uncompromising hard liners in the fight against Arab terrorism.
All of them have served in Likud governments which have ceded territory of the land of Israel in exchange for peace accords with Israel's Arab neighbors.
So where is the schism?
Over one matter: Unilateral handover of land to the PLO, without any agreement, accord or understanding.
During the last Israeli general election in February 2003, the only Israeli political parties to advocate such a position of unilateral land transfer were the Communist and Arab political parties.
Unlike other Israeli left wing parties and entities such as Labor, Meretz and Peace Now, all of whom advocate the concept of territories for peace, the position of the Israeli Communist Party and the three Arab political parties now represented in the Knesset was more doctrinaire: Give them land. It is theirs. Ask for nothing.
Now, to the surprise of almost every pundit on the Israeli political spectrum, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon led his Likud party to outflank the Israeli Zionist left and to adopt the unilateral withdrawal platform of the Communist and Arab parties.
Not only did Sharon speak about adopting their platform, but he also implemented it with a lightening sweep expulsion of all 21 economically viable Jewish communities in Gush Katif and northern Gaza and four entire Jewish communities in Northern Samaria, in the span of less than one month, between August 15th and September 12th.
This past Monday night, Sharon staved an initiative in the 3,000-member Likud central committee to advance the Likud primary election by six months, which might have cost him his job that he still could lose in April, the original election date narrowly confirmed by the committee. All of this occurred while Arab cannons from Gaza were ablaze, attacking Israeli towns and villages throughout southern Israel.
What incentive could Sharon offer his hard line Likud constituency? One need look no further than Israel's leading economic newspaper, Globes, whose headlines have been reminding Israeli business people that business with the Palestinian Authority is good business. Israel's exports in 2004 to the Palestinian Authority surpassed two billion dollars, while less than 400 million dollars worth of goods were imported from the PA.
And the man whom Sharon appointed to administer the expulsion of the Jewish communities from Gaza, General Eival Giladi, has also been named to run the Portland Foundation, a British owned development foundation. This institution will now invest more than half a billion dollars into the Arab Gaza economy. The main investor in that Portland Foundation is British billionaire Sir Ronald Cohen, a close advisor to the chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Gordon Brown. On the day of the Likud primary, Brown announced he would come to Gaza to oversee this mass investment, much of will flow back into Israel and benefit Israeli contractors who will continue to work with Arab laborers for Israeli industries.
How many of these contractors happen to be members of the Likud Central Committee may have had a bearing on last Monday night's vote which saved Sharon from facing a November primary vote.
There are times when short term business interests override concerns for national security.