Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ariel Sharon

The 77 year old Ariel Sharon remains Israel's shrewdest politician today and might represent that country's best chance for peace in an otherwise uncertain environment. He withdrew Israeli troops from Gaza in August, 2005 to ensure Israel's demographic viability in the face of a rapidly increasing Palestinian population and its defence in the context of unrelenting Hamas attacks. One time Brigadier General, he had previously spearheaded efforts to double the number of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. He realized the futility of such a policy given the demographic pitfalls that threatened to overwhelm the Jewish population in the territory between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean. His policy response entailed the closure of 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza and 4 settlements in the northern West Bank in August as part of a wider disengagement.

Sharon has been controversial throughout his political career. Known for his rugged independence, he resigned from the right-wing Likud party in November, 2005 which he helped establish in 1973. He argued that dogmatic positions prevented the flexibility needed to ensure Israel's long term interest. He then formed a new party, the Kadima, which means "Forward" in Hebrew. This has attracted members from both the Likud and the leftist Labor party. The 82 year old Shimon Peres, erstwhile leader of Labor, pledged his support to Sharon today. Opinion polls indicate that Sharon is likely to win the upcoming elections in Israel scheduled for March, 2006. He has effectively captured the middle ground. The hawkish Likud is opposed to conceding any Palestinian territory while the Labor party has a radical platform that most Israelis are wary of.

Here is a realist who had earlier envisioned a Jewish state that stretched from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean, one that would militarily dominate the region between the Euphrates and the Nile rivers. Sharon has since back tracked to ensure the continued viability of Israel. He intends to relinquish control of much of the West Bank to retain a Jewish majority and secure peace with Israel's Arab neighbors. His aim is to ensure total security for Israel on its terms.

Ariel Sharon was always one to challenge authority be it Begin, Shamir or Netanyahu. Sharon defied the military high command on two occasions to score impressive military gains in the Suez war in 1956 and the Yom Kippur war in 1973 where he led troops across the Red Sea to advance to within 62 miles of Cairo. Soviet pressure through the United States stopped him on his tracks. It was Sharon who saved Israel from defeat in the Sinai. He masterminded the ill-fated invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Many accused him of complicity in the massacre of Palestinian refugees by Christian milita in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut. Time Magazine in fact held him directly responsible. He sued Time Magazine for libel. The American jury agreed that the report was false and defamatory. Sharon was later instrumental in erecting the controversial West Bank barrier to secure Israel from terrorist attacks. This appears to have succeeded given the reduced number of terrorist attacks within Israel.

Both Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon are fighting fit despite their age. They are destined to reshape the region that is likely to witness a two state solution to the Palestinian problem but one where Israel retains control of East Jerusalem, parts of the West Bank and preponderant power in the Middle East. Iran however remains a challenge and it would be interesting to see how Sharon would address that.


The Greatest Hokie Ever !! said...

[Jaffna] - Excellent analysis, do you think an Israel - Pakistan tie up is possible (back channel communications have always been on since the days of the Texan congressman, Charlie Wilson) to combat the rising threat of Iran?

Jaffna said...

Dear Hokie,

Both Israel and Pakistan were states founded as a "traditional homeland" for one religious community. So the link is obvious. But I am not sure what Pakistan has to gain from Israel except that these diplomatic moves are part of a larger American-sponsored equation. Israel has everything to gain i.e. legitimacy and acceptance in an Islamic world that has for the most part refused to recognize it.


doubtinggaurav said...


I think it is little unfair to equate Israel with Pakistan,
Idea behind Pakistan was negation (ie not India).
Israel was indeed formed on the concept of homeland, however the circumstances leading to its formation were unprecedeneted.
"Final Solution" of the "Jewish Problem" almost ensured that Jews as a race were exterminated.
This was the final straw, Jewish people realized that they could not rely on other religion for its survival and must their homeland.
Israel today is a vibrant nation with a functioning albeit chaotic democracy, whereas Pakistan is digging hole for herself while ensuring that she takes India with her.

history_lover said...

The movement behind Pakistan was fear of domination by the Hindu majority (which later proved out be exaggerated...)
Also although Israel was created in 1948, zionism is a older movement That is why the Jewish movement from Europe to Palestine
started of much earlier

Anonymous said...

india should keep a close watch on the relationship [israel-pak] at least covertly.
pakistan sees israel as a grat lobbying force in washington and wish to use their connections to th ehilt.
thus the address to the american jewish cong by mushy.


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