Palestinians May Play 'Big Role' In Sharon's Political Success

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israeli politicians, scholars and even a prominent journalist are being sucked into the political whirlwind created by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new political faction, an analyst here said.

But it is the Palestinian Authority, beset by internal difficulties, that may have the biggest impact on Sharon's new political party, Kadima.

P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction had to close polling stations in Monday's primary election in the Gaza Strip after gunman fired shots into the air and stole ballot boxes in about 12 locations.

P.A. parliamentary elections are due to be held in January. Abbas said he would honor the results of the primaries that have already taken place, but as of Tuesday, he had not decided how he would proceed with the others.

"For places that have not held their primaries, we will find a suitable solution," Abbas said on Tuesday.

But despite its internal political disarray, the P.A. may have a part to play in the success of Sharon's new political party, Kadima.

Sharon created political upheaval in Israel last week, when he announced that he was quitting the Likud party -- which he helped to found more than 30 years ago -- and was starting his own faction.

"The Palestinians will have a bigger role than anyone else [in determining the future success of Sharon's party]," said Cameron Brown, deputy director of the Gloria Center for research at the Interdisciplinary Center near Tel Aviv.

If there is a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even if there is "long-term peace and quiet," then the focus of the Israeli public will shift toward other issues, said Brown.

So far, Sharon's party has not come up with an economic policy or one on religious issues, he said. That could mean that his party would not have a reason to exist after four years and would disappear as many other centrist start-up parties have in the past, he added.

Following Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip and abandonment of 21 established communities, some international leaders are looking toward Sharon as the only man who can finally resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that out of all the Israeli politicians only Sharon is "capable of achieving peace with the Palestinians." In an interview with Spain's ABC newspaper, Mubarak said Sharon "has the ability to take difficult decisions, commit to what he says and carry it out."

Sharon's party favors a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Cabinet Minister Meir Sheetrit, who has joined Sharon.

Kadima "will strive in this term to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians and to set Israel's permanent boundaries," Sheetrit said in a radio interview.

"We understand that to reach a final status agreement, there is no choice...but to create two states for two nations."