Monday, January 09, 2006

Kadima after Sharon

How simple things were a fortnight ago. Arik Sharon was riding high, he'd made the boldest move of his political career, and the rapid advance toward peace from the past twelve months was set to continue. Then he had to go and do something stupid, like have himself a heart attack, and then a stroke. Bad time to drop dead, in an election year and all that.

But fear not. The inherent rightness of Kadima, and its urgent necessity on the Israeli political landscape, exists beyond the enormous shadow cast by Ariel Sharon. Sure, it took someone of Sharon's stature to make the bold move, but the party lives on regardless. Kadima was not just borne out of Sharon's desire to be re-elected: it was a reflection of the political facts that (a) Likud was always going to be lukewarm on disengagement, and (b) that there was definate common ground shared by realists inside both Likud and Labour.

Commentators are waxing lyrical about the implications of Sharon's untimely exit from the political scene, describing the election the way that most people describe Melbourne Cup fields. To these commentators, with Sharon's death comes the death of Kadima, stillborn, really, since it never made it out of the womb.

These commentators misread Kadima, and the political forces which led to its creation. The last twelve months has brought hope and optimism to the Middle East. For sure, part of it was due to the death of the stupidly intransigent Yasser Arafat, but part of it was also due to the political courage of Ariel Sharon. Sharon was prepared to back his judgement, take on the settler movement head on, and expose himself to the wrath of his own party. And the world ought be eterally thankful that he did.

Far from tiring of this progress and reform, Israelis are desperate for more. They don't want to return to the fruitless nationalism of the hardcore Likudniks, but nor to they want to head for the blind optimism of Labour. To Israelis, the Sharon of the past twelve months represents an 'enlightened hawk' - a figure who is acutely aware of national security but embraces the opportunity for peace that history has provided. This is the essence of Kadima - how else could old foes Sharon and Shimon Peres march under a single banner?

Whoever leads Kadima after Sharon, there is an emphatic need for the party to go on. The party represents all the reasons for hope for the future, and the spirit of realism which is the only way forward for a secure lasting settlement. Sharon's death is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end.

UPDATE, 11/1, 3:45pm: The mysterious 'Aunty' has very correctly pointed to a disgraceful cartoon which appeared in The Age today:

Leunig on Sharon


Michael Leunig has made a reputation for himself in the past few years as someone who is rabidly anti-western, anti-Israel and seemingly sympathetic to the worst elements of humanity. This effort today upholds that shameful tradition. Lame, juvenile and grossly offensive cartoons like this don't belong on the pages of a previously great newspaper like The Age. Surely there's an opening somewhere at the Green Left Weekly or The Guardian where Leunig can slowly dribble onto the page so he doesn't have to annoy the rest of us.

15 comments:

Lisa said...

I hope so. And it really strikes me how Sharon has provided a catalyst for political change in Israel at least - but perhaps the wider middle east too - regardless of the fact it appears he's now out of the game.

Anonymous said...

Ari, look at the Luenig cartoon in The Age, 11/01/06.

I think it is DISGUSTING and PATHETIC. Typical of The Age.

Aunty

John Lee said...

I wouldn't say Leunig is typical of The Age's coverage, though they ought to put a leash on him.

Anonymous said...

The press may have misread Kadima, but you misread Sharon - the man isn't dead yet.

Apart from that, I agree totally with everything you've said. Good post.

And as for Leunig, I don't know what's more offensive - a) his extremely offensive and narrow-minded views, or b)the fact he's a "cartoonist" who can't really draw any better than I can (and for the record, I can't draw).

Nadav

Anonymous said...

i agree with auntie leunig is disgusting and i am about to cancel my subscription to the age today

Sammo said...

There you go:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/the-cartoonists-lot/2006/01/12/1136956298009.html?page=2

Peter Billing said...

I reckon Sam has pointed out a very interesting article there, Ari ol' son!

TimT said...

Leunig cartoons aside, I feel you're right about Sharon and the future of Israel. I remember reading a comment a few days ago about this, pointing out that this sort of progress was unlikely to happen if the Palestinian government did nothing to tackle terrorist groups (such as Hamas, etc). I think that comment was spot on.

Craigy said...

I don't get what you are so upset about. None of you seem to understand the job of a cartoonist is to point out the hypocrisy on all sides (See his comments in the AGE opinion). As Richard Frankland (indigenous film maker and artist) recently testified to having seen Jewish soldiers sniping at school children. Yes, innocents are targeted by both sides and that is really disgusting. The fight fire with fire argument has never worked for me and Leunig is very effective at pointing this out. He is an Australian treasure.

Anonymous said...

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for you sanity How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will.

Ahh Mr Luenig, God love mate.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Leunig only ever sees one side. He does not "point out the hypocrisy on all sides". Never once has he criticised (directly or indirectly) the Palestinian terror groups that target Israel. There is a very strong argument, therefore, that he is antisemitic.

His article in the Age was disappointing - and almost incomprehensible. His main argument seemed to be that some of his best friends are (anti Israel) Jews. He did not explain why he saves his bile for Israel, the US and the Prime Minister (who he apparently regrets is alive).

Please let us all know when he points out some hypocrisy on the OTHER side.

Q_

craigy said...

Anonymous, I agree Leunig doesn’t criticise the Palestinian terrorists in his cartoons, we have the world wide control of the media by American interests to do that (see the Murdoch press). My point was that cartoonists in general remind us that we are all human and capable of hypocrisy. For any group that kills and destroys others and thinks it is justified I refer to my comment about fighting fire with fire. I believe when we start sniping at kids because we don’t like their parents or justify it because they did it to us, we leave humanity behind. Israel has a right to defence and I know that can be a fine line, but shooting at kids? Leunig is a small voice among many with much greater reach. What he is saying is true even if it offends you.

Anonymous said...

"Lame, juvenile and grossly offensive cartoons like this don't belong on the pages of a previously great newspaper like The Age."

And war criminals should be brought to justice, but sometimes instead they become heads of state...I agree this world can be a shitty place sometimes.

Leunig however is a treasure and the only cartoonist to ever bring a tear to my eye, and the Age is a richer publication for his contributions.

Cheers

Cameron

Anonymous said...

Q_,
You appear to equivocate being "antisemitic" with being anti-Zionist - I have always thought there is a difference between the two...?
However, my opinion of this particular piece of Leunig's work is not exactly positive.
Cheers,
Dellusionist

Anonymous said...

You are a peanut. This is drivel on the internet. It's good that you're warning us so if we ever meet, I'll know to make an excuse to be in another conversation.