Ariel Sharon: Brutality and pragmatism – and some charm too

Ariel Sharon (1928-2014). R.I.P.

Question:

Is it anything from Sharon’s legacy, any principle maybe, what should basically any Israeli government follow and is it anything any Israeli government should definitively avoid, and why?

Answers:

Ahron BregmanDepartment of War Studies, Kings College London

Ariel Sharon will be remembered as a great leader. Like many other great leaders he was both charming and cruel. His basic instinct was to resort to force in dealing with Israel’s enemies and – in hindsight – he probably overused force against them.

What, I think, Sharon taught us is that one should always follow one principle which is not to have principles at all, and always re-evaluate and reassess situations and if necessary be brave enough to turn your back on old believes and adopt new ones. In short – be pragmatic.

Sharon, we should remember, was the architect of the Sinai settlements in the 1970s. But when he realised that Israel could get peace from Egypt if it just removed the settlements from the Sinai, he picked up the phone and told Prime Minister Menachem Begin (who was in Camp David negotiating with Egypt’s president Sadat) that he – Sharon, the father of the Sinai settlements – would support the prime minister if Begin decided to remove the settlements. Later, in April 1982, as Israel’s Defence Minister Sharon sent the army into the Yamit bloc of settlements, removed the settlers by force, brought heavy machinery and razed the Sinai settlements to the ground, before Israel handed over the Sinai to Egypt. We should also recall that Sharon was the architect of the Gaza settlements, but in 2005 – by then prime minister of Israel – realizing that Israel could live better without the settlements he – yet again – sent the army into the Gaza Strip, removed the settlers and destroyed the settlements before leading Israel out of the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation. Brutality and pragmatism – and some charm too, that’s Ariel Sharon.

Chuck FreilichSenior Fellow, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

haron devoted his life to Israel’s security and was a security hawk, but as premier he came to appreciate that security is much more than just military defense and he proved that he was a man of peace, withdrawing from all of Gaza, dismantling all of the settlements there and 4 in the West Bank as a sign of his intention to reach a deal there too. I would hope that Netanyahu will also make the transformation form security hawk to statesman and national leader that he did.

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