Thursday, December 30, 2004
Israel came a step closer today to having a unity government that will enforce next year's planned pullout from the occupied Gaza Strip where five Palestinians were killed in an upsurge of violence.
After weeks of bargaining, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office announced a deal that would see Labour Party leader Shimon Peres serve as his number two in a new coalition government.
"(Mr) Peres will be named as number two to the prime minister and will be considered the most important member of the cabinet after the head of government," it said.
I've thought for a long time that Ariel Sharon was the only person who could achieve the only plausible peace agreement: the final definition of Israel's borders and the end of the occupation of Palestinian territory outside of those borders. He put his government at risk in pursuit of the first step in that strategy, and has built a coalition government with the center-left Labour party to rescue it. Would Peres have bailed out Sharon just to achieve the withdrawal from Gaza? Unlikely. He is in because he knows that Sharon is working toward a complete resolution.
If Sharon succeeds, there will be no adulation from the world, and certainly no Nobel Prize. But there will be peace for his people and, finally, a wedge of hope for the Palestinian Arabs, who have preferred to hate Jews than accept a separate peace for more than 80 years.