January 05, 2006

The End of the Sharon Era?

"One can cautiously say that it appears that the era in which Sharon stood at Israel's helm came to a tragic end on Wednesday."

--Aluf Benn, writing in Haaretz.

With the Sharon era now fading into history, we must now reluctantly bid farewell to that generation of greatest Israelis (Rabin, Sharon, Peres) whose very lives mirrored the broad narrative of their beloved nation (Peres is alive, of course, but will almost certainly never assume leadership of the country). We can hope that certain aspects of Sharon's legacy remain alive, in particular, that his recent broad, statesman-like centrism can find a place in the Israeli body politic. But the fate of Kadima is now very uncertain (for instance it is far from clear that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be a convincing standard-bearer for the party if Sharon dies or is otherwise materially incapacitated). Israel enters a period of great flux now, the generation of its founding fathers (or immediate successors) having passed from the scene, with massive challenges requiring urgent attention (continuing turmoil in Gaza, the peace process and status of West Bank, Iran, neighbors like Lebanon/Syria). Put simply, this is a terrible time for Sharon to be incapacitated. Israel will get through this period of turmoil just fine, in all likelihood, but make no mistake: this is a country entering a season of sadness and--with most of the giants of its post-1948 history having passed from the scene--a sense of vulnerability, of having been denuded somewhat.

Posted by Gregory at January 5, 2006 03:31 AM | TrackBack (0)

Amen, though I haven't given up on the tough old guy yet. I can't think of a single figure on the world stage today whose sudden passing would have a more negative impact than Sharon's. It's worse than Rabin (who had stalled) or Martin Luther King (who was being eclipsed by more radical figures) or JFK (who probably wouldn't have kept us out of Vietnam or passed the equal rights amendment) The only parallels I can think of are Jack Kennedy or Aung San, who was killed during peace negotiations, and might have ended the war in Burma which instead lurched onward for another five decades.

Posted by: matt chanoff at January 5, 2006 08:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Except that at this stage of the game it ought to be clear that it matters not a whit who the Prime Minister of Israel is or might happen to be.


Nor should one overlook the absolute euphoria his passing will evoke among an impressive chunk of the world's population (both progressive and, well, otherwise)---yes! Sharon will have proven to be a hugely unifying figure---so that from a utilitarian point of view....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at January 5, 2006 10:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thinking in eschatological terms, Sharon and Arafat were syzygies, and it was pretty much inevitable that neither would outlive the other by long.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 5, 2006 01:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whoa, eschatological syzygies. Impressive. Nonsense, though. They happened to be enemy leaders for a long period of time. But Arafat was the undisputed PLO leader for most of its history, Sharon wasn't anything like that - ususally not the leader, never undisputed. More important, Sharon was a combattant who came to the conclusion that peace was only possible through sacrifice and compromise, and he pursued that course with tremendous energy. Arafat never committed to compromise or put any effort into it. Anyone able to put aside their sympathy for one side or another, looking at the two of them fair mindedly from the point of character, would see Sharon in a much more favorable light.

And "inevitable that neither would outlive the other by long."? c'mon, it's not a play.

Posted by: Matt Chanoff at January 5, 2006 04:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, and re Barry Meislin's comments above: I think it matters a great deal. He was in the midst of shaking up the two big Israeli parties, in a way that will be (would have been?) salutory for Israel's internal politics. With regard to the peace prospects, I suppose you mean that without a real Palestinian partner, no Israeli PM could make peace, and Abbas hasn't proven able to play that role. Maybe, but the carots and sticks wielded by Israel have a big impact on internal Palestinian politics too. Is Abbas more likely to become a partner for Sharon or Netanyahu? (Let alone Peres).

Posted by: Matt Chanoff at January 5, 2006 07:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arafat, the nephew of the great mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini, Hitler's
middle east point man, as well as the Balkans, born of the Muslim Brotherhood; whose lead theoritician, Qutb, was the father of
Al Queda. which makes him the successor to thar campaign. Sharon, by contrast was a paratrooper, who had to deal with attacks on Israel, way before the advent of the occupied territories, including their accmplices like Nasser, whose anti
semitism, went as far as to import German scientists to create a wMD program against Israel, one of whom whose a major player
in the armament of Iraq, a generation later, Syzgie indeed.

Posted by: narciso at January 5, 2006 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sharon is the last of the Warrior generation of Israeli leaders. After the founding generation of Israelis as examplified by David Ben-Gurion & Golda Meir, the Warriors, (Dayan, Rabin, Sharon) were the generation of Israeli fighters whose battles established Israel in the War of Independence and defended it and eventually led it in subsequent Wars and eventually the beginning of peacemaking with the Arabs. Now this, the second generation of Israeli leaders is passing from the scene as well.

Israelis no doubt are feeling lost tonight, much the same way Americans felt in April 1945, when FDR died near the end of WWII with all the uncertainities of Peace still ahead. I do believe Israel will find its way with new democratically elected leaders just as the US did sixty years ago. Many doubt that the acting PM Ehud Olmert is the right man to succeed Sharon. Lots of people felt the same way 60 years ago about Harry Truman. Truman worked out very well and believe that Olmert may do a good job as well.

Posted by: David All at January 6, 2006 12:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The only answer to this is fair districting in every state so that incumbency is not a ticket to a guaranteed reelection.

Luka, you complain about Texas. Here in California we have a total of 153 legislative seats, federal and state. In the last election not a single one changed party hands. Could this have been a result of the Democratic control of the districting process? This current scandal is just another symptom of this problem. The extreme polarization between the parties is a consequence of the lack of any pressure to compromise or come to the middle. Why no pressure? Because each of these turkeys is sure to be reelected and hence the party hierarchy can keep them in line.

And Luka, the Dems are just as bad. Look at the congressional delegation from California. Miller inserts a rider in a bill that allows any two persons with 1/32nd Native American blood to become a tribe and to purchase urban and suburban land that then becomes a reservation and then a casino. Donald Trump backs the deal and viva Las Vegas! We have Pelosi whose mouth has been on auto pilot since she first said "MaMa". She has done absolutely nothing to address the compelling issues of the state she purports to represent. On the Senate side we have sweet Barbara Boxer, now on her third face lift who rails against business but somehow has made millions while in office. Where did all those oil company investments come from?

We have as corrupt a legislature as New Jersey but because there is essentially no news coverage of Sacramento, our august legislature (controlled by the dems) can only spend, spend, spend and yet nothing gets done. We are dealing with a $5 billion overrun on the Bay Bridge retrofit and the legislative oversight let this happen. Of course, the fact that the major contractors gave millions to the dems has nothing to do with that.

And when Gov. Arnold put an initiative on the ballot to have an independent panel of retired judges redistrict the state, the municipal unions and our legislative dems raised nearly $100 million to defeat it. And so, here in sunny California, we have a structural deficit of about $10 billion per year; the worst schools in the country; a freeway system that is falling apart; severe road congestion in part because Governor Moonbeam (Jerry Brown) wanted to put up some state satellites instead of building roads and so on.

No Luka, the Dems stink as bad as the GOP and as long as money is the "mothers milk" of politics and redistricting is an oxymoron, it ain't going to change.

And I will bet you a meal at one of SF's finest restaurants that George B won't be impeached and that the body politic wouldn't stand for it if the attempt was made. Certainly not in the middle of a war.


Posted by: Michael Pecherer at January 6, 2006 06:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry, somehow this got on the wrong thread.


Posted by: Michael Pecherer at January 6, 2006 06:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jonathan Edelstein has written a very nice political eulogy for Sharon.

Posted by: Guy at January 7, 2006 05:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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