World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Alon Ben-Meir: Sharon's Legacy

Sharon's Legacy

Alon Ben-Meir

13 January, 2014

People around the world have passed judgment about the life of Israel’s most controversial leader that runs the gambit from utter and deep admiration for his uncompromising devotion to Israel’s security and wellbeing while others, especially the Palestinians, reviled him for being cruel, morally corrupt and a war criminal.

I doubt that history will render a judgment that supports with no reservation one or the other characterization of this unique individual. As for me, he was a leader’s leader who demonstrated the vision, courage and commitment to what he believed in--qualities that are sorely lacking on the global stage today and especially in the Middle East.

Yes, he had on a number of occasions demonstrated poor judgment that caused great grief and losses to many Palestinians. I can say, however, with no reservation that he had no malice in his heart but that his overzealousness obscured, at times, his better judgment about what was right or what was wrong.

Perhaps the best way to survey Sharon’s life is to look as his unique characteristics and the imprint he left behind which will have a lasting impact for generations to come.

Visionary:

He was a hardcore ideologue who believed in Israel’s right to occupy all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. But when he concluded in 2004 that the only way to preserve Israel as a democracy and its  Jewish national identity, he acted and  withdrew all Israeli settlers and military personnel from Gaza with the intention of withdrawing from much of the West Bank.

Leadership:

Sharon exuded unmatched leadership qualities both as a soldier and as a political leader. When he was required to fight as a soldier he stood in the forefront and was never fazed by any danger. As a politician, he never hesitated to make the most sensitive political decisions to change course and seek a two-state solution, overriding the objections of many in his cabinet including Netanyahu who served as his finance minister at the time.

Courageous:

Sharon’s courage was exemplary in leading his troops or his government--he always stuck to the motto that a commitment to achieve anything requires corresponding courage, especially when it appears that all odds are against you.  Once he decided to bulldoze ahead with his plan to evacuate Gaza, he never feared the threats to his life from extremist settlers, especially when the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin was still fresh in the mind of the Israelis.

Statesman:

Sharon, who suffered several failures, understood that true statesmanship is not only a product of successive successes but also the lessons learned from failures. Realizing that occupation is not sustainable, Sharon had little compunctions to propose a final peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Brilliant military strategist:

Although Sharon was the soldier’s soldier and demonstrated from his early career that he was a superb military strategist, he will be remembered in the military annals as one of the greatest. In the 1973 war against Egypt, after Israel’s initial retreat he commanded 27,000 Israelis in a drive across Egypt’s Suez Canal that helped turn the tide of the war, and was poised to crush  the Egyptian Third Army had he not been prevented by the US.

Relentless:

Sharon’s deep convictions about what was best for Israel made him one of the most relentless leaders who never succumbed to failure or circumstances. He was a warrior both in his military and political life. He pursued his goals with zeal by chasing terrorists across enemy lines or changing political course when his party did not go along with him to seek rapprochement with the Palestinians.

Deep ideologue:

Sharon was an uncompromising ideologue; not only did he believe that the Jews have every right to reside in their ancient homeland, he also openly advocated grabbing every inch of Palestinian land to realize the Jews’ historic right. He came to be known as the father of the settlements and the architect of building a barrier of fences and walls to separate Israel from the West Bank.

Pragmatist:

Former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, who served as Sharon’s deputy, put it best when he said “He [Sharon] was a smart and realistic person and understood well that there is a limit in our ability to conduct wars.” Sharon believed that a practical, realizable solution must be found regardless of Israel’s military prowess.

Focused:

Sharon’s many setbacks did not sway him from his ultimate goal to serve his beloved country in any way possible. After his setback in the 1982 Lebanon War he began a process of self-rehabilitation, serving in parliament and in a number of Cabinet posts while endearing himself in the eyes of the settlers. He ended this period by achieving a landslide victory in 2001, which bestowed on him the premiership.

Dismissive:

In many ways, Sharon was dismissive of his opponents, especially when he was convinced of the correctness of his moves. In late 2003, he unveiled his “unilateral disengagement” regardless of what his political opponents had to say and without prior consultation and an agreement with the Palestinians.

Bold:

Probably the best way to describe Sharon’s excessive confidence and his boldness is his engineering of the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 while portraying it as a limited campaign to rout Palestinian terrorists infiltrating from Southern Lebanon. Sharon reached the outskirts of Beirut, which was seen by many Israelis as a bold and daring military move that could lead, as Sharon envisioned, to the establishment of a pro-Israel regime in Lebanon. This military adventure, however, ended up in a major debacle which kept Israeli forces in Lebanon for 18 years and most likely precipitated the rise of Hezbollah.

Defiant:

Sharon’s defiance may be described by his provocative visit to the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, the 3rd holiest site in Islam. This incident was followed by Palestinian riots which escalated into a full-fledged uprising. Whether or not the Palestinians had planned this in advance, the visit provided the impetus. This second Intifada (uprising) claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, and laid much of the West Bank in ruin.

Sharon’s death in my view leaves a legacy that the Israelis and the Palestinians would do well to remember: Israeli-Palestinian coexistence is a fact of life, and time and circumstances will change little other than to inflict more pain and suffering, and further deepen the hatred and animosity that will continue to poison one generation after another.

Sharon came to this realization and made a historic turn. He had the vision, courage, leadership and wisdom to act.

It is a historic irony that the two leaders who reached out to the Palestinians, Rabin and Sharon, who both took concrete steps for peace, were struck down before they could accomplish their goal. A true leader must fear no death, because the future of their people and their destiny demands and deserves the highest sacrifices.

*************

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. alon@alonben-meir.com.                               Web: www.alonben-meir.com

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Amnesty: Campaign Mass Hangings And Extermination At Syrian Prison

A chilling new report by Amnesty International exposes the Syrian government’s calculated campaign of extrajudicial executions by mass hangings at Saydnaya Prison. Between 2011 and 2015, every week and often twice a week, groups of up to 50 people ... More>>

Russian Hack Job?: White House - Actions In Response To Russian Malicious Cyber Activity & Harassment

President Obama authorized a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016. More>>


Israel/Palestine: Michael Field - Background To How Israel Nearly Went To War With New Zealand

New Zealand and Senegal managed to get the United Nations Security Council to pass resolution 2334 which said Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territory violate international law and undermine a two-state solution in Israel's conflict with Palestine. More>>

ALSO:

US Indigenous Affairs: How President Obama Has Protected Our Sacred Land

I am very proud to be both Navajo and American. As the President of the Navajo Nation, I’ve dedicated my life to ensuring that, as a Navajo, my story -- and our stories -- are part of our collective American history. Today, I want to share one of those stories with you. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: The Berlin Truck Attack And The Refugee Question

The hard-nosed neo-cons were certainly showing little interest in linking arguments, examining evidence, or even considering elementary logic in the aftermath of the Berlin truck attack near the Gedächtniskirche. With the bodies fresh in the morgue, former US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, peered into the mind of the everyday German, and found teeth chattering fear. More>>

Demonetisation: Gordon Campbell On India’s Huge Socio-Economic Experiment

Without much coverage at all in the West, India has just been engaged for the past few weeks in one of the world’s biggest socio-economic experiments since the Cultural Revolution in China. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Death Of Fidel Castro

New Zealand likes to think we played our part – via the 1981 Springbok tour – in bringing the apartheid regime in South Africa to an end… Jacob Zuma treated the death of Fidel Castro at the weekend as an occasion to pay a heartfelt tribute to the thousands of Cuban soldiers who travelled across the world to inflict the first significant military defeat on the forces of white supremacy. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news