Thursday, January 05, 2006

Israel after Ariel Sharon

With Ariel Sharon’s recent medical developments, one has to start looking at what life in Israel will be like after Ariel Sharon ceases to be the Prime Minister of the State. The changes that Israel will see may be much more dramatic than anyone anticipates.

First and foremost, Ariel Sharon is an amazing military strategist. He has played major roles in all of the Israeli wars, and is cited as the mastermind behind the 6-day victory against 6 Islamic countries in 1967. His recent victories in Prime Ministerial elections were largely due to the security that he provides all Israelis. And with Israel’s biggest wars 30 or more years in the past, Sharon was really the last remaining brilliant military mind in Israel. His military experience will be a huge loss, as will the feeling of security he provided.

But at the same time, Sharon himself incited much of the violence that Israel has seen over the past 20+ years. Both Antifadahs were started by Ariel Sharon marching up the Temple Mount with troops to show Israel’s sovereignty over the sacred ground. Sharon’s policy of military assassinations and devastating air strikes in retaliation for suicide bombings has been seen by the Palestinians as more punishment then is merited by the crimes, and has incited even larger waves of violence. Lengthy closures of the territories have had the same effect.

And after Sabra and Shatila, Palestinians have seen Ariel Sharon in the same way Israelis looked at Yasser Arafat: as the enemy, a mortal enemy to the end, and someone who is guilty of crimes against their people. Many times Palestinian leaders have said that they would never negotiate with Ariel Sharon, could never trust Ariel Sharon, and that any negotiation that included Ariel Sharon would never be ratified by the Palestinian people.

Of late, though, Sharon was the voice of the people, finding unique solutions to move closer to peace with the security so needed by the state. The unilateral withdrawal from the territories was a huge move, and while Gaza descends into violence, the violence has only barely touched on Israel because of the fence which Sharon created. And while many people have called the fence a land grab, it has been incorporated into the roadmap for peace, and is seen as an important part of coexistence in the region.

The recently formed Kadima party is all about Ariel Sharon, and reflects his views completely. He was campaigning on his plan for peace with security in the region, as was meeting with widespread support, more support than any party in Israel has ever received coming into an election. Many theorized that for the first time Sharon would be able to be the Prime Minister without forming a coalition and this would be a major show of trust by the Israeli people.

So what will Israel be like after Ariel Sharon? Israel may have gained a more willing partner for peace in Palestine, now that they won’t have to negotiate with a leader they consider to be a butcher. But Israel will miss Sharon’s blanket of security, his innovative concepts for pursuing peace with the Palestinians, and his recently-found ability to tie together different factions within Israeli society by addressing the common issues instead of focusing on the irreconcilable differences. And this is a lot to miss.

Posted by Scottage at 12:24 PM / | |