But we have heard less of his retirement lately and rather more about his plan to leave Gaza. Apparently, after killing hundreds of its occupants, including scores of innocent bystanders as Israeli helicopters fired missiles into city streets, Sharon thinks he'll get some good press about leaving Gaza.
Of course, what Sharon truly is leaving is an impossible situation. Gaza is a small, fenced-in enclave of nearly a million Palestinians where only the most mentally unbalanced Israeli settlers insist on living a life of guard towers, razor wire, patrols, and spies. Sharon's army is tired of protecting a few machinegun-toting fanatics, not to mention the small fortune it can save by ending the protection.
The army will be able to do a more efficient job by policing only the perimeter of the world's largest open-air detention center. Access by land, air, and sea are tightly controlled, although inmates are permitted on selected days to pass through fences and checkpoints for jobs in Israel that Israelis will not take.
America's court-appointed President, the remarkable man who spent a hundred billion dollars to set Iraq in flames, characterized Sharon's initiative as "historic" and "courageous," two words whose meanings there is no objective evidence he even understands.
During the carefully-staged ceremony in Washington, Bush suggested the U.S. will support Israel's annexation of parts of the West Bank. How is Bush entitled to grant land he neither owns nor occupies to a third party without so much as consulting those who lived there for centuries and still often hold deeds? Apparently, through no principle more dignified than might makes right.
The de facto border of Israel keeps shifting eastward as new settlements sprawl out like Florida land developments. The Palestinians are not to be permitted even their miserable 22% of what once was called Palestine. Sharon's gang has always wanted the West Bank, minus its inhabitants, carefully dressing up its language in biblical terms that strike a special chord in the backwaters of America. Of course, one just as reasonably could make a case for Greece claiming parts of Turkey on the authority of the Iliad. The biblical claim really is just that silly, but it carries weight in parts where children's books are scrutinized for dire signs of witchcraft.
Sharon's government has been a disaster both for the Palestinians and Israel. The world's reaction to his behavior has been waves of severe criticism, but there also has been ugly new expressions of anti-Semitism. A number of Israel's defenders work to blur the distinction between these two things, hoping to silence criticism. Reasonable people are driven to despair at being treated so mindlessly.