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
Yasser Arafat’s cynical resort to violence in 2000 – even though he was offered sovereignty over almost the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip – showed that no meaningful negotiations were possible when so many Palestinians had not truly accepted the legitimacy of a Jewish state.
“The right, for its part, had dreamed of settling Jews in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to make those areas forever part of Greater Israel. But the Palestinians’ higher birth rate meant that before long they would become the majority, forcing Israel to jettison either its Jewish identity or its democracy.”
“I wondered how Sharon felt about the changed opinion of him in much of the world,” wrote Israeli journalist Ari Shavit some years ago. “The Arab world, and many on the left elsewhere, would never forgive him his early career. But now he was widely respected, even revered, by people who had written him off as the cruel, militaristic ogre of the Zionist occupation.
“This doesn’t intoxicate me,” Sharon told Shavit. “I’ve seen them regard me one way and I’ve seen them regard me another way. And I know that it can be the one way again and it can be the other way again. It’s like a huge wheel. Do I feel elation when they admire me in the world? No. Above all, I’m a Jew. And I realize how they came to like me. If the Jews were to disappear, they’d also be happy.”
“The great question of our day,” he wrote in The Warrior, his 1989 autobiography, “is whether we, the Jewish people of Israel, can find within us the will to survive as a nation.”
How did he see his own legacy?
“Today,” he told Shavit, “the Jews are in less danger because Israel is strong.”