Tuesday, January 17, 2006

For most of us Ariel Sharon remains an enigma. For some people he has always been the incarnation of ( Jewish ) evil, others he hailed him as a king and savior, only to curse him when he came up with the disengagement plan. Often I agreed when I read the various "in memoriam"s about him, and while I have written many letters to the editor in which I attacked him and his ( lack of ) policies, in the last years I also came to realize that he is a fascinating person, whose biography contains more than one dark chapter but who also did some things for which Israel owes him big time. Last week the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad published an article that I wrote right after it became clear that Ariel Sharon would not return to the Prime Minister's Office. I wrote that two things will determine the results of the elections on March 28th: developments - and possible power struggles - within the Kadimah party, and - more importantly - efforts by organizations led from Teheran, Damascus and Gaza to make sure the next Israeli government will not take any further steps as part of whatever kind of 'peace process' that might or might not be rekindled by the disengagement plan's implementation. It seems that efforts by Jewish militants to stop further retreats from occupied territories - such as the riots in Hebron - have exactly the opposite result: Kadimah gains even more seats according to the opinion polls, and ordinary Israelis become more and more convinced that our own extremists are a danger for the Jewish state. Today an article is published in the Dutch daily Trouw, in which I react to an opinion article by Uri Avnery. Avnery stresses Sharon's "simplistic nationalism" and cynically hints that those lefties who embraced Sharon are naive and failed to understand that Sharon had an agenda of his own. In my article I write that Uri Avnery's one-dimensional portrait of the 'bulldozer' is remarkable, particularly because Avnery's own biography proves that gifted people hardly ever are immune to change. I claim that though Sharon did not really change, he realized that the reality around him had changed, and he ( partly ) set aside his ideology when he understood that that ideology hurt the interests and wellbeing of the people and country that he has served all his life. Because of that he belongs in the hall of fame where we find men such as Rabin, Begin and Sadat. His view of reality might be pessimistic, but it is not detached from reality. True peace is a goal that seems unattainable right now, and therefore little steps such as the disengagement from Gaza are the only substantial contributions to a solution of 'the' conflict that can be made today. You do not have to understand or admire Sharon - or to ignore the blood on his hands - to understand that contribution. In the last week or so many interesting articles were published about Ariel Sharon and the repercussions of his illness. I only saved a few of them. Ynet (re)published the last interview that he gave, to a Japanese newspaper. In the interview we read about almost all main issues that will ( have to ) be dealt with by the next Israeli government. Amos Oz and David Grossman gave their interpretation and appreciation of the person Sharon and of Israel's future without him. Ha'Aretz' Bradley Burston wrote about the ways in which both extremist and mainstream private and public figures reacted to Sharon's stroke. Amir Oren wrote an extensive piece on Sharon's career and legacy.

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