I've always felt deeply passionate about and fascinated by Israeli politics. And now, through my marriage, I have an immediate familial connection to it. But it's a topic I don't talk too much about on the site. Because I'm in that editorially dangerous position on having just enough knowledge to say things that are really foolish.
So let me just again draw your attention to the tectonic plates moving in Israeli politics today -- ones that seem likely to have deep repercussions throughout the region and even in the world.
Ariel Sharon has now officially resigned from the Likud party and set in motion the steps which should lead to new elections in March.
Sharon was a key founder of Likud. And many Israeli editorialists are noting the irony -- if that's what it is -- that Sharon may be doing to Likud what he has already begun to do with the settlements, dismantling or destroying what he took the key role in creating. There is already talk that the rump Likud may be forced to form a new bloc with other rightist parties.
Sharon will now form a new centrist party ("National Responsibility") and seek to win what -- in the dynamics of Israel's fractured politics --counts as a mandate and freedom of maneuver to move ahead with his brand of peace-making free of the Likud's hardline pro-settler base.
The question I have been most interested to hear answered was whether Shimon Peres would join the new party, a possibility widely hinted at over the weekend and encouraged by Peres's recent loss of the leadership of the Labor party. But according to the latest word this won't happen. Peres won't leave Labor. Peres aside, will Labor's new direction under Amir Peretz allow Sharon to peel off other Labor party members for his new party?
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has yet to announce whether he'll follow Sharon out of Likud or, more likely, stay in the party and attempt to become its new leader.
The latest word I've been able to find is that the first meeting of Sharon's new party, which took place this morning, had twelve ex-Likud members present. But all the reporting seems fluid. When I first read this article in Ha'aretz about a half hour ago it said there were eleven. Sharon needs 14 to lay claim to some of Likud's state funding.
Everything in the party structure of Israeli politics seems up for grabs.