"Beware of an old man in a hurry." Palestinian leaders and people would be wise to keep that English maxim in mind right now. Ariel Sharon, the old Israeli bulldozer, has his policy rig in overdrive. And, with President Bush riding shotgun, Sharon is driving roughshod over Palestinian fantasies on his way to a unilateral peace.
For a generation Israel, America and Europe have been seeking peace between the Jews and the Palestinians on the theory of good faith negotiations between the parties. But Mr. Arafat's rejection in 2000 of the Clinton-brokered best deal possible, compounded by the subsequent policy of suicide bombing Israeli civilians in Israel-proper, forced Old Man Sharon to think anew of how to gain peace for his people. Now in his 76th year, Prime Minister Sharon has no time to waste -- and neither do the Palestinians if they want to have any role in their own imminent destiny.
Sharon is consolidating Israel's position geographically, as he is consolidating his own political position domestically. He has been well on his way to the construction of a complete fence or wall that will protect Israel plus its major settlements on the West Bank. Now he is yielding Israeli settlements in Gaza and outriding settlements on the West Bank. In other words, thinking like a general, he is withdrawing from undefendable salients. The objective will be an Israeli fortress that can stand until such time as the Palestinians may wish a permanent peace.
Giving up those settlements, however, was opposed by the right-wing faction of his own domestic political coalition. And that is where the tough, stout old general has displayed a Metternich's elegant finesse and delicacy of touch in his diplomacy with Bush and his own Likud Party right wing.
He couldn't consolidate Israeli geography without his right-wing support (which didn't want to give up its dream of an Israel of biblical geography in the West Bank). He couldn't gain that support without President Bush making a series of guarantees and policy pronouncements that would undercut the Israeli right wing's support amongst their own rank file (1. Israel may keep some West Bank settlements; 2. Israel may go militarily back into Gaza to protect itself; 3. Palestinians have no right of return to Israel). And President Bush couldn't make those public statements without frightening the feeble-minded international clucking class that has persisted for a generation in fantasizing a Palestinian leadership willing and able to negotiate a good faith peace.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.