We begin with Leon Wieseltier's Unsettled, which has in it moments of eulogy and moments of argument:
The only peace that is available to Israel is a premature peace, and the Israeli center, the mixture of prudence and decency that Sharon (Arik melekh yisrael!) [sic] represented, is wagering that a premature peace may not be a counterfeit peace. There are good reasons for such a wager. Israel is spectacularly strong; and the peace with Egypt and Jordan has withstood two intifadas and an American war in Iraq; and the Soviet Union is still dead; and the requirements of Israeli safety have nothing to do with the requirements of Jewish eschatology... But the best reason for the wager, of course, is that the demographic inevitabilities between the river and the sea are now incontrovertible. No, that's not right: they were incontrovertible decades ago. But at last they have been acknowledged by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and other figures on the right who have more important things to be than right. I overcame my skepticism about Sharon's change of heart on April 14, 2004, when he came to Washington to tell President Bush that Israel will insist upon retaining five settlement blocs on the West Bank. Five! The press exploded that an American president had for the first time acceded to Israeli settlements. They missed the scoop, which was that the foreign policy of Israel had been emancipated from the fantasies and the stratagems of the settlers by the man who was once their god. Of all the people to establish a political basis for a practicable peace! But that is precisely what this grand and brutish man has done.Yossi Klein Halevi's Past Perfect is dedicated to Ehud Olmert, the man who will be asked to implement Sharon's vision. The article which discusses Olmert's journey from right to center tells us that the man who was once a local Betar commander and committed Revisionist rethought his lifelong political commitments during his tenure as Jerusalem's mayor:
Miki Cohen, one of Olmert's mayoral aides, suggests that Olmert was transformed by his repeated exposure to terrorist attacks. "He went to every terror site as soon as the attack happened and saw the most terrible things," says Cohen. "He also went to most of the funerals, and then visited the families. Over the years, I often heard Revisionist ideas from him. But my sense is that those experiences convinced him that we had to try a different way.And where does this "different way" leave the Palestenians? On the outside. As the third article, Isabel Kershner's Disengaged tells it, a spirit of fatalism has overtaken Palestine
Having been "disengaged" from Israel, the Palestinians are focusing on themselves. "Palestinians think Israel and the United States will do what they want anyway. They don't see any solution, so this is not a priority in casting their vote for parliament," says Bashar Hamayel, the owner of a hardware store in El Bireh. Shikaki concurs. As he explained to me, at the moment, economics, corruption, and law and order rank as top priorities. Then comes the issue of how to deal with the occupation, through violence or not. The peace process--namely the consideration of who can best deliver or reach agreements--comes last.This, finally, is why Ariel Sharon is entitled to the admiration of all Israel. His habit for unilateralism may have upset the right (as it once infuritated the left) but who can object to the result? Thanks to Ariel, Israel has clear, defined borders. It has a Jewish majority, without relying on the immoral and unpalatable approach of denying votes and a voice to a conquered majority. And the Palestenians, at last, seem ready (however resignedly) to turn inward and to focus on their own problems and on building their own state.
*I'm a week behind. My New Republic arrives on Friday, but a new issue is published on Monday.