UPDATES 6 pm Israel time, Sunday, January 12 2013:
*All of southern Israel is ironically (see blog below) on heightened alert for missiles fired from Gaza as terrorists try to launch rockets to “celebrate” Ariel Sharon’s death. Already this afternoon there was a failed launch–the rocket exploded shortly after takeoff from Gaza.
*Former PM Sharon’s casket is now on display outside at the Knesset. Thousands of Israelis are filing by to pay their respects.
*The Netanyahu government formally approved the Golan development plan outlined earlier this week on israelstreet. 750 new “agricultural plots” will be developed by the government in order to strengthen Israeli presence on the Heights.
As readers know, yesterday’s blog merely contained an announcement of Ariel Sharon’s death. Today, your humble servant would like to add a few paragraphs of opinion about his storied life.
To begin with, Sharon’s heroic bravery is the stuff of legend. From his early days in the Haganah to his creation of Unit 101 in the years immediately following Israel’s War of Independence to his aggressive leadership in the ’56, ’67, and ’73 wars, Sharon exemplified the courage of the everyday Israeli.
But more than this, his brilliant military tactics helped save Israel more than once. Who can ever forget his crossing of the Suez Canal during the darkest days of the Yom Kippur War and the subsequent surrounding of the Egyptian 3rd Army?
Yet controversy always surrounded Sharon as the media delighted in pillory. Qibya (1953) became in later years “a massacre”, the Sabra and Shatila (1982) “massacre” of Palestinians by Christian Phalangists was blamed on Sharon, and the media said that Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 instigated the 2nd Intifada.
None of these allegations were true, and ironically helped to propel Sharon even higher in Israeli politics.
Unfortunately, it was as Prime Minister that Sharon failed badly. In pursuit of his plan to unilaterally withdraw all Jews from Gaza, he forcibly expelled 9,480 Jews from 21 communities in 2005.
This expulsion was a disaster. Within two years, Hamas had taken control of Gaza and was firing thousands of rockets at southern Israel from the very locations that Sharon had ordered evacuated (rockets they ironically continue firing today to celebrate his death). It is doubly ironic that such a brilliant tactician could not foresee what would happen in Gaza. And of course Sharon himself never saw the bitter fruit of his actions–having fallen into a “waking coma” on January 4, 2006.
In sum, what can we say about Ariel Sharon? We deeply mourn Sharon’s passing because of all of the astonishing actions that he undertook for the state of Israel; we only wish that his legacy would have been untarnished by what he precipitated in Gaza.