Thursday, October 28, 2004

The vote and the press

Whilst waiting for news of Arafat's fate, flicking between various news sources, I've also been checking out the responses to the historic Knesset vote of Tuesday night. The overall consensus tends towards being positive but often grudgingly so. Grudgingly because it appears that the press has a huge problem with given any possible credit to Sharon. As David Yelland, writing in London's Evening Standard puts it:
"Such is the depth of vitriolic opinion against Sharon, it is simply
unacceptable among most senior hacks even to admit, for one second, that he
might have done something right".

Commenting on the coverage Yelland goes on to note that:
"This is big stuff - historic stuff - which is simply not getting the coverage
it deserves here in Britain".
This is perhaps a little unfair as most of the major news sources seem to have given the vote fair column space including those which have always tended towards being fiercely critical of Israel such as The Independent, which opines that the PM
"deserves credit first for broaching such a plan, then sticking with it despite
ferocious opposition, and finally for mobilising sufficient support to clinch a
convincing majority. None of this was easy, nor was it without risk."
Our Prime Minister has a checkered past. As one of the greatest Generals that the country has ever produced, he was involved in many operations and by the nature of things, some of these were controversial - particularly when put into a modern day context. I would suggest however that if you were to put other countrys' military records of around the same era into that same modern day context; France in Algeria or the US in Vietnam for example, they'd fair far worse by comparison. The result of this past is that the media tends to err on the side of caution. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister surely deserves to be judged on the actions that he is currently taking, which are amongst the most far reaching of any leader that the country has had. Assuming that all goes to plan this will be the first time that Israel has withdrawn from territory and destroyed settlements since the Camp David accords; the scale is far greater in terms of what is to be uprooted. This is a withdrawal which the whole world has been pushing for; which politicans across the board supported (including one MK from the far right); which the media should be trumpeting.

Sharon is indeed a hardliner, but he is also a pragmatist whose first concern is what is best for Israel's security. In the past that included occupying every possible hill top but he has recognised that this is no longer the case. A military commander has to be flexible and alter his strategy to suit the conditions; this is precisely what Sharon has done. The Gaza settlements, once of supreme strategic importance are now a drain on the nation's resources in economic and human terms to say nothing of the negative PR internationally. This does not make the decision an easy one; approximately 2000 families will be uprooted under the terms of the plan and this has had to be weighed against the benefits. The turmoil that will be caused to those families in particular and to the nation as a whole will be horrid - there are difficult times ahead. Times such as this require leadership - Sharon has provided it and will hopefully be written into the history books as one of the great peacemakers.


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