Ariel Sharon died today, and Ben Birnbaum is unnaturally optimistic that Benjamin Netanyahu will agree to a peace agreement.

Over the coming weeks, Netanyahu will likely find himself in the difficult position that Sharon found himself in the run-up to the Gaza withdrawal: hard-pressed to explain to the right-wingers in his party and his coalition why he is abandoning the principles he stood by for decades. He will of course trumpet the achievements of Kerry’s framework agreement: the Jewish-state recognition, the security guarantees, and the belated Palestinian acceptance of reality on the refugee issue. He will say it in his best Likudish.

But Netanyahu will more likely emphasize what Israel faces should it not accept the Kerry plan: a jilted American administration, a ramped-up Palestinian U.N. campaign, European sanctions, a global-divestment campaign on steroids, a growing Palestinian binational-state movement, a brewing third intifada, and—oh, by the way—the likely collapse of his government. In other words, this time Netanyahu may find that the path of least resistance lies in crossing the rubicon.

I love the positive thinking, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at