Monday, January 13, 2014

Goodbye, Arik

The sudden deterioration in the health of former prime minister Ariel Sharon who had been in a coma for the last eight years, his last days on life support after his major organs had shut down, and finally his death and today's ceremonies at the Knesseth from where his mortal remains will be taken to a hill near his ranch where he wanted to be buried, all this provided opportunity for a cantus firmus of reflections on this much loathed and much admired public figure who literally had blood on his hands, who was guilty of masterminding a disastrous military campaign against the PLO in Lebanon in 1982 and unleashed genocidal forces in Sabra and Shatila, who encouraged the rapid expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and yet who is perhaps more loathed on the right than on the left because he also demonstrated that it is possible for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories, to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority, to dismantle settlements, and to work for pragmatic solutions. If recent editorials in Haaretz are anything to go by, the reason why the left misses Sharon is because he was a man of action rather than inaction. As Ethan Bronner, the former Jerusalem bureau chief of the NYT pointed put at Boston University not too long ago, the current attitude among Israelis favors conflict management to conflict resolution. We will see if the final departure of Sharon also marks the end of the coma in Israeli politics.

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