Not happily, not comfortably, but in a word, yes, I am going to vote for Sharon. I know about Sabra and Shatila, but Ehud Barak has so completely betrayed the hopeful vote I cast for him in 1999 that by now even most of my ambivalence is gone, replaced by an urgency to oust Barak and his band of professional delusionaries.
Barak's two significant successes during his year and a half in office are an inversion of his mistakes. With his violations of principle, he has rekindled Zionist fervor in Israel, unifying right, center and parts of the left against him. With his concessions, he has exposed the Palestinians' nasty secret: that they will not make peace with Israel even if we divide Jerusalem, give them three-quarters of the Old City, and surrender the Temple Mount, the Jordan Valley and control of the border crossings.
This is very good for us to know.
The Palestinians' design has become so clear, in fact, that only a child or an academic could fail to see it. Their official incitement against Jews and Israel does not stop. Their leaders string ours along, making the concessions from one round of talks their starting point for the next round. Their final demand, which we didn't believe they were serious about, seems to be Israel's national suicide -- the "peace of the grave," with 3 million Palestinian refugees dancing on it. They boldly deny any Jewish historical connection to the Land of Israel and destroy Jewish historical and religious sites that come into their possession. Aren't these signs that we are negotiating with barbarians?
Meanwhile, our own leadership continues to impersonate the wise men of Chelm. Every day something new strains one's credulity. While the Palestinians shoot and bomb, the government continues to funnel money to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and to fatten Arafat's private bank account in Tel Aviv. Shimon Peres counsels Arafat that to help reelect a sympathetic Israeli government he should reduce the violence until the elections -- after which, presumably, he would have permission to increase the violence again. Another government minister, Matan Vilnai, opines that negotiations should stop in response to terror by the PA but insists that violence by the Tanzim, Arafat's Fatah militia, is not in that category -- even while Israel's security services blame the PA itself for approximately 80 percent of attacks since September.
In 1999, Barak was a security-conscious general skeptical of the Oslo accords who would cautiously pursue a treaty that would give Israel internationally recognized borders and an end to war with the Palestinians. His eloquence about the Jewish connection to Jerusalem made him seem trustworthy to act resolutely, from deeply Jewish motives, even in a time of difficult compromises. "Only those who are completely removed from any connection with their historical legacy and who are estranged from the vision of the nation -- from its faith and from the hope it has cherished for generations -- only persons in that category could possibly entertain the thought that the State of Israel would actually concede even a part of Jerusalem." It was all an act, a lie -- just like Arafat's handshake on the White House lawn, just like the "peace of the brave." There is no peace and, finally, no sign from the Palestinians that a real peace is what they are aiming at.
So, yes, I'm going to vote for Sharon, even if he is a bully overly confident in military solutions who should have disappeared from public life after the Lebanon war. I don't think he'll last long as prime minister -- we'll have elections again soon -- and that's fine with me. I need Sharon only long enough to reduce to an historical footnote Barak's capitulations to our insatiable Palestinian neighbors and to reverse Israel's transformation into a defeated nation suing for peace on terms that shame us.
Anyway, maybe a bully is just what we need to cope with the bully Arafat. It will sound harsh, especially to American ears, but perhaps, instead of being coddled and spoken to earnestly, the Palestinians, like wayward children, need to be slapped -- hard -- once or twice to bring them to their senses.
And if they cannot be brought to their senses, that too is good for us to know.
Barak's greatest failure is that he has brought Israel to the point where it needs Sharon. But he has, it does, and that's how I'll cast my vote.