The death of legendary warrior and controversial politician Ariel Sharon marks the end of an era in Israel.
Sharon, 85, passed away at Sheba Medical Center on Saturday after eight years in a coma.
He was, “first and foremost, a warrior and a commander, among the Jewish People’s greatest generals in the current era and throughout its history,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated.
“Ariel Sharon’s life is intertwined with Israel’s history, and his presence in its main intersections is recorded in its history books,” said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
A decorated IDF general and brilliant military strategist, Sharon, among his many military triumphs against both regular armies and terrorist hubs, led an overwhelming victory against Egypt during the Six Day War in 1967. In 1973, Sharon turned a seemingly hopeless situation around and saved the Jewish state from disaster, defeating the Egyptian army in a fascinating breakthrough that astounded military experts the world over and earned him the title “King of Israel.”
Late Israeli political journalist Yeshayahu Ben Porat (as recounted on the website ariel-sharon-life-story.com) had commented that Sharon “led the military across the [Suez] Canal and occupied a part of Egypt, west of the Canal. If it were up to him he would have continued until Cairo.”
Thus, to many, Sharon’s performance as prime minister, particularly in regard to facilitating Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the expulsion of its 9000 Jewish inhabitants, became a source of confusion, disappointment and abandonment.
To this day, southern Israel is bombarded with missile attacks emanating from Hamas-run Gaza. Many among the evacuated residents of Gush Katif – some who were already in their 50s – have been unable to recover economically.
Former Member of Knesset Tzvi Hendel told Israel National News that while Sharon will be remembered for many great deeds, he “cannot forgive him for what he did to the Jews of Gush Katif.”
Judea and Samaria Council Foreign Envoy and former director Dani Dayan called Sharon “Israel’s greatest warrior since the Maccabees,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
“He saved Israel by his virtuous crossing of the Suez Canal,” Dayan stated. “He established thriving communities across our ancestral homeland, changing its landscape forever. He defeated Palestinian terror, against all odds.”
“Today, I prefer to stop the memories there, and not deal with the terrible mistake known as the Gaza disengagement,” Dayan asserted on his Facebook page.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party, who has threatened to leave the coalition government if Israel withdraws from Judea and Samaria, wrote on his Facebook page:
“This evening we will remember his great deeds, and we leave the debate about his later decisions for another day.”
Several world leaders seemingly eager for Israel to make concessions to the Palestinian leadership have focused on this chapter in Sharon’s life. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, for example, declared:
“Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip.”
As expressed by Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and published in The Globe and Mail, a Canadian daily:
“No Israeli leader left behind such a paradoxical legacy as did Ariel Sharon. When Israel expands settlements, it continues the path set by Sharon in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, when, as minister of agriculture in the first Likud government of Menachem Begin, he built dozens of new West Bank communities. Yet as Israel negotiates an agreement with Palestinians that would inevitably involve uprooting settlements, it is likewise faithful to the legacy of Sharon, the only Israeli leader to dismantle settlements – twice, in Sinai in 1982 and then in Gaza in 2005.”
On Monday morning, a state memorial ceremony, attended by dignitaries from around the world, will be held at the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). As noted in Times of Israel, the list “includes senior ministers and top officials from 19 countries, but not a single head of state….
“The countries sending senior government officials to the funeral roughly correspond with a list of Israel’s closest allies on the international stage; no senior officials from the Arab states Israel has diplomatic relations with — Jordan and Egypt — are scheduled to attend.”
Sharon will be interred on Monday at Shikmim Farm in southern Israel, where his second wife Lily is buried. He is survived by two sons.
Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer, United with Israel
Date: Jan. 12, 2014