The announcement made on Monday by Ariel Sharon about the foundation of a new centre party is an act of courage. According to all observers, Sharon could have taken Likud to a new electoral victory but he abandoned it to be able to implement a policy that can allow Israel to have better security conditions.
The Prime Minister expressed his wish to change the Israeli political system, but is the foundation of a new party the best way to do it? Today, the reform project is as uncertain as Ariel Sharon’s political future. The Israeli political system is undermined by parliamentary coalitions. It’s common to see ministers saying things contrary to what has been said by the Prime Minister. Besides, Prime Ministers are forced to make negotiations within their own parties for there are strong divisions. By founding a party loyal to him, Sharon hopes to have a more solid base. But nothing is safe, though.
Sharon should have about 30 seats at least, which is an adequate number for a new party. Therefore, he could negotiate to form a new coalition and his party will likely suffer internal tensions. The reform of Israeli political life will not be made in one day. On the contrary, even when many Israelis are centrists, there has never been a party for that part of the political spectrum. Therefore, Sharon is in a strategic situation. The Labor Party and Likud will compete with the new party to get the votes of the centre and this will strengthen the national consensus with regard to the rejection of the Oslo agreement.

Jerusalem Post (Israel)

Moving politics to the center”, by Shmuel Sandler, Jerusalem Post, November 23, 2005.