Sharon’s First Vision

Israeli politics came to an abrupt halt last week while Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and was subsequently hospitalized. There was a leadership crisis which ended with the Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assuming the prime minister’s responsibilities. However, the larger crisis is not over for Sharon or for Israel. Ariel Sharon fought in every major Israeli war. He enlisted in the Haganah as a teenager, and fought in the 1948 Independence War. He moved up the ranks, eventually becoming Defense Minister in the 1982 war with Lebanon. He has been a cornerstone of Israeli politics for over three decades, founding two of Israel’s major political parties: the Likud Party in 1973 and, more recently, the Kadima Party in 2005. Since his 2001 election as Prime Minister, Sharon has been a dominant force in Israeli and world politics. He deviated from his own campaign and party platforms, making unique steps towards peace with the Palestinians and with his left wing political rivals. His absence is raising questions in the minds of concerned citizens around the globe about the future of Israel and of the peace process. It is thus an appropriate time to reflect on Sharon’s vision for Israel and the Palestinians, and the path that Israel should take to ensure, first and foremost, the security of her borders and the safety of her citizen. Sharon’s vision for Israel was, until recently, a strong Jewish country stretching from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. In the past few years, his mind has changed, and he has displayed his preference for the so called “two state solution” and “roadmap to peace.” Peace has become his number one priority. Following his plan through, his vision for Israel today is a smaller, more peaceful Israel in good relations with her neighbor, Palestine. The Kadima Party is Sharon’s means for making this dream into a reality. Sharon’s Kadima Party will win a significant number of Knesset seats in the upcoming March elections, likely more than Likud and Labor combined. This is the greatest evidence of how Sharon has changed Israeli politics in the past months, and shows what is to come if nothing is actively done to stop it. The centrist Kadima party has marginalized the Israeli right wing. Much of the former right wing has shifted left and Israel no longer has a conservative political party. This is a time when Israel’s right wing needs to speak up and be strong. There are several small right-wing political parties in the Knesset aside from Likud including Shas, the National Religious Party, and the coalitions of the National Union and United Torah Judaism. Though these parties have many differences, in a time when politicians are evicting their own constituents and brothers and threatening Israel’s security, enough of them must find common ground and unite to create a significant parliamentary presence. But, at the same time, it is hard to be too critical at a time like this. Labor and Likud leaders; including Benyamin Netanyahu and Amir Peretz, have put politics on hold out of respect for Sharon and at the expenses on their own campaigns. It is only appropriate. So I too wish Ariel Sharon, one of Israel’s greatest military leaders and politicians, a full recovery. And I hope that somebody holds on to Sharon’s original dream for a strong and vibrant Israel.