Saturday, January 07, 2006

Haaretz on Sharon

This pretty much sums up Sharon. I'm going to put it all right here:

Good-bye, giants of 1948
By Yoel Marcus

As these lines are being written, Ariel Sharon is fighting for his life. But you don't have to be a neurologist to know that his days in the Prime Minister's Office are over. As the last of the giants of the 1948 generation, Sharon has been a visible presence at every important and sensitive juncture in the chronicles of the state.

As a soldier and a statesman, he was loved and hated, promoted and demoted. One day he was "king of Israel" and the next he was "a danger to the state." The man who was deemed unfit to be defense minister went on to become the "father of the nation."

Sharon went through a process similar to Moshe Dayan, another member of the 1948 club who tended to view Arabs through a gunsight. Both were celebrated and resourceful generals. Both underwent a dramatic turnabout in their approach to the Palestinian problem later in life. Dayan came up with the idea of peace with Egypt, ran with it, and planted it in Menachem Begin's brain. He was the first to understand the limitations of

brute force and the need to use the occupied territories as cash for buying peace.

At that time, Sharon was a fierce hawk, the builder of the settlements, a master at manacling prime ministers who were extremists in their own right, like Yitzhak Shamir. Sharon's change of heart began when he slid into the driver's seat. Using the slogan "you see things from here that you don't see from there," he underwent a dramatic metamorphosis. It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment of transition. The common assumption is that as an illustrious general, he began to see that Israel had no answer to terror, and as a prime minister, flying back and forth to meet President Bush, he realized that Israel could not cut itself off from the family of nations. Most of all, he worried that the United States might someday impose an accord on Israel.

As a beloved and esteemed prime minister, he went through a process similar to de Gaulle. The general who was brought back to power to insure that the territories (in this case, Algeria) remained in French hands did the opposite of what the extremists expected. He gave up Algeria and ordered a million colonists to return to France.

Sharon was elected prime minister as the father of the settlers. But when he realized there could be no agreement without a Palestinian state and painful concessions, he found himself in a face-off with his supporters, his party and the entire far right.

Sharon's six-day war was evacuating the settlements in Gaza in six days. And he did it without bloodshed or civil war. He did it with the determination of a leader who had made up his mind that without a pullout from the occupied territories, we would never be able to live here in peace and security. The PR slogan "only Sharon can do it" became a

If the Palestinians were smarter and more organized, they would have grabbed what Sharon was offering with two hands. But, as much as I hate to say this, Arabs are Arabs. If there's an opportunity to be missed, they'll miss it. The moderates were scared stiff of the extremists. They could learn a thing or two from Sharon. There comes a time when you
act in accordance with the will of the majority and not the dictates of the fanatics and the militants.

Sharon did not hesitate to walk out on the Likud, which was screwing up the works, and found a new party. Even before things were organized, with the party still in an embryonic state, the pollsters were predicting that it would win 42 seats.

Sharon's stroke has sent the political system into a tizzy. Politicians who regard Kadima as a thorn in their sides - Netanyahu in this corner and Peretz in that - will try to get the tens of thousands who followed Sharon to come back home. But Kadima was the product of circumstances and those circumstances have not changed. The people who wanted this party are still there. The diverse cadre of leaders who flocked around Sharon can also rally around Ehud Olmert, a seasoned politician who dreamed up the idea of disengagement with, or maybe even before, Sharon. He can carry on from where Sharon left off.

The voters who were going to give Kadima those 42 seats refuse to believe that all is lost. Yesterday I saw people heading off to register for the new party. As if they were saying to Sharon: Good-bye, giants of 1948. You have heirs.

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