Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon passed away Saturday at the age of 85. He never recovered from the devastating stroke he suffered eight years ago, on January 4, 2006.
Some of the obituaries you will read about the former leader will vilify him, others will praise him, in all probability they will both be wrong.
Ariel Sharon was an enigma wrapped in a paradox. He didn’t fit into the traditional vision of a warrior or a peacemaker; his greatest moments in politics happened years after his career was declared over. He helped to create the Likud Party, but then left it, he was seen as a champion of the settlement movement but then began to dismantle them. Ariel Sharon did what he thought was right whether others agreed or not.
His strategy to conquer the Sinai in the Six Day War is studied for its innovations and brilliance. Six years later and against orders, Sharon led his troops across the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur war encircling Egypt’s Third Army. Many Israelis regarded this move as the turning point of the war in the Sinai front.
As defense minister in 1982 he played a key role in the Lebanon War designed to move the terrorist PLO. Sadly during the action Phalanges—Lebanese Maronite Christian militias committed a massacre in one of the Palestinian Camps. Even after it was proven Sharon neither planned, ordered, nor even knew about the massacre before it happened, he received part of the blame for failing to anticipate the likelihood that the Christian forces may commit atrocities.
To the outside world, Sharon could do no right, some even accused him of working with U.S. Bush to invade Iraq even though he strongly recommended against it.
in September 2000 after archeologists claimed that extensive building operations being by the Islamic Waqf on the Temple Mount were destroying priceless antiquities he visited the Temple Mount. The next day there were riots that were followed by an unrelated wave of terrorism called the 2nd Intifada.
The Sharon haters decided that trip to the Temple Mount caused the intifada which was a false charge. In the two months between the end of the Camp David peace talks and the beginning of the intifada, Israel began to warn that Arafat was preparing mass violence. Even Arafat’s widow admitted to that fact years later.
Yasser Arafat had made a decision to launch the Intifada. Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return, in July 2001 [sic]. Camp David has failed, and he said to me: “You should remain in Paris.” I asked him why, and he said: “Because I am going to start an Intifada.
A wave of suicide bombings rocked Israel, horrible mass-murders targeted at killing civilians. Arafat’s terrorists blew up children in buses, families at Passover Seders, innocents having lunch at Jerusalem Pizza places and so many others. While the appeasing world called for restraint Sharon was determined to end the bloodshed. He unleashed the Israeli military, sending tanks into the Palestinian territories, ordering assassinations of terrorist leaders. “And believe me,” Sharon said, “we show restraint. I am under heavy pressure to act differently.”
Sharon ordered the IDF to confine Yasser Arafat to his compound in Ramallah and worked toward delegitimizing Arafat as nothing more than the murderer he was. Sharon only refrained from killing Arafat because of a promise he made to the American government that he wouldn’t kill him.
Near the end of his tenure as Premier, Sharon made his most controversial move– disengagement.
These steps will increase security for the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF and security forces in fulfilling the difficult tasks they are faced with. The “Disengagement Plan” is meant to grant maximum security and minimize friction between Israelis and Palestinians.
Sharon felt that as a man who spent most of his life as a warrior, he was going to impose peace whether the Palestinians like it or not.
“As one who fought in all of Israel’s wars, and learned from personal experience that without proper force, we do not have a chance of surviving in this region … I have also learned from experience that the sword alone cannot decide this bitter dispute in this land,”
While it may have been done with the noblest of intentions, disengagement did not have the result that Sharon predicted. In fact, it lowered the security of Israel and increased friction between Israeli’s and Palestinians.
The ascendancy of Hamas, the years of rockets bombarding the Negev and the Gaza War can all be traced to the disengagement plan developed by Ariel Sharon. But to be fair, Sharon had said if the disengagement encouraged new terrorism out of Gaza he would reoccupy the strip of land, a move his successor would not consider.
As part of his disengagement policy, he proceeded to build a security fence between pre-1967 Israel—and the West Bank a move that is vilified by many in the west, but it succeeded in vastly reducing the terrorist attacks in Israel.
Ariel Sharon’s actual passing, after eight years in a coma, is kind of anti-climactic after all he had been out of sight, and except for a report once or twice a year he had been out of mind. Yet even with its inevitability, his death was the only thing that could finally erase a feeling that this great leader who had fought back from defeat so many times in his life, would beat the stroke which incapacitated him. Sadly that never happened.
In the end, perhaps he wasn’t that much of an enigma after all. Ariel Sharon was simply a man who dedicated his life to his family and his people.
May his memory always be for a blessing.