A SIGNIFICANT turning point seems to have been reached in Israel, as premier Ariel Sharon takes the political gamble of his life by resigning from Likud to form his own party. Will Sharon’s shift from hardliner to (relative) moderate result in a centrist coalition in the Knesset? Will he be in any position to offer potential partners anything? The run-up to the March election will be fascinating stuff, with implications for the direction of the Middle East peace process. We’ve a bit of experience with hardliners softening their stance here, and while it has worked for some, the reverse has also been true.