Farewell to the Legendary "Lion of Israel"
Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dedicated his life to making his homeland safe. He leaves a legacy like no other.
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
the West Bank) in 2005, when he concluded there was no Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate peace.
“He was tough, and he was stubborn. As Israel’s foreign minister, he had refused to shake Yasser Arafat’s hand when they met at Wye Plantation in Maryland in 1998. He later said that he had spent years trying to kill Arafat and was not about to shake his hand.”
“One of the most important lessons that Sharon applied to the battlefield and to politics was that Israel had to seize the initiative, not simply react to events,” writes Robert M. Danin “He, more than any, appreciated the country’s basic security dilemma: while possessing a strong and highly motivated army, Israel is dwarfed in size and numbers by an inhospitable region. For him, taking the initiative was the enduring legacy of Jewish history, of his military experience, and of his political success.”
He was often blamed for the tragedies that occur in war. “He had taken the blame for the failures of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon – he had been defense minister – and the massacre of Palestinians in two Lebanese refugee camps by Christian militiamen,” wrote Elliott Abrams in Commentary magazine.
Sharon’s decision to unilaterally withdraw Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip was brilliant, said Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass in a 2006 interview “The genius, if you will, of unilateral disengagement from Gaza was that it offered you an approach to a peace process, but didn’t require two partners, which was the traditional approach. My hunch is that had Sharon remained viable politically and physically, what we would have seen was not a return to a traditional peace process, but instead a period of successive unilateral disengagements up to a certain point.
“And then my guess is that Sharon would have said, ‘Ok. We will go this far unilaterally. We are only prepared to take the final steps, though, of disengagement and withdrawal if we have a Palestinian partner.’”
"He was the 'new Jew' after the Holocaust, a strong man who stood up to those who wanted to destroy the likes of him, and his country," eulogized columnist Suzanne Fields. "He had his faults, but weakness wasn’t one of them. His story was that of his country, of perseverance and intrepidity in the face of his enemy. When he surprised the world in 2005 by withdrawing settlers and troops in Gaza, he was compared with President Nixon going to China. He had a plan to create a strong state that would survive by compromising."
Sharon’s primary achievement, according to Max Boot in a 2006 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, was to force both the left- and the right-wingers of Israeli politics to see reality: “The Israeli left for years had dreamed of reaching an accord to live in peace with the Palestinians.