October 3, 2001 (something interesting written a few years before the Gaza Disengagement)
After more than six months as Prime Minister of Israel and with the influence of Shimon Peres growing each day, it is time to reflect on Sharon’s tenure and to declare that as of today he is a colossal failure.
In the last elections, 70% of the Israeli electorate not only rejected Ehud Barak, but Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and Shlomo Ben-Ami as well. In fact, what was rejected was the whole Oslo approach, including it’s architects and leaders, as well as the continued policy of appeasement under fire. Rarely had such a clear sign been given to a newly elected Prime Minister of Israel. However, following such a clear signal, Sharon did the unthinkable. He elevated Shimon Peres, arguably the most influential politician and proponent of the Oslo approach, to the prominent position of Foreign Minister. Rather than heading for retirement following such a clear message from the Israeli populace, Peres was given a golden opportunity to continue promoting his ‘vision’.
Such a move by Sharon, which clearly flew in the face of the desire of the overwhelming amount of Israelis, made a mockery out of the supposedly democratic nature of the Israeli government. The question, therefore, is why did Sharon do such a thing?
Although not publicly stated it appears that there were two motives. The first was an attempt by Sharon to head off the expected anti-Israeli sentiment following his election to prime minister. After years of being vilified by the world and considered a warmonger, Sharon needed to include Nobel Peace prize recipient Shimon Peres in his government in order to soften the image of his government and thereby deflect any criticism. Judging by the anti-Israel sentiment that is raging through the world, this move was an obvious failure.
The second reason that Sharon went against the wishes of the public was for purely personal reasons. For Sharon, in the twilight of his political years, his election to prime minister was a golden opportunity to finally clear his smudged name. If he could convince Israel and the world that he really wasn’t such a monster and that he truly desired peace like everyone else, Sharon was certain that his name would finally be venerated. Of course, what better way to convince the world than by naming Shimon Peres as his Foreign Minister? However, similar to the case above, this attempt by Sharon has also failed. For most of the world, he is still considered one of the main obstacles to peace in the region.
Thus, not only did Sharon do something that in any normal democracy would have been unthinkable, his two reasons for doing it have both failed. Still worse for Israel, however, is that by allowing Peres to continue, throughout all the violence and killings, to constantly defend Arafat and call him our partner, Sharon has allowed Peres to seriously damage Israel. At a time when the world is finally waking up to terrorism, Shimon Peres has foolishly managed to prevent the godfather of Arab terrorism from being placed on the side of the ‘bad guys’. At a time when Arafat should finally have been crushed, along with all the related groups of Arab terror, Israel is once again being nudged down the Oslo path and being asked to negotiate with Arafat. Peres, who has been tirelessly working to justify his and Arafat’s Nobel Peace prizes, is once again sitting pretty. Of course the fact that Peres has seriously damaged Israel in order to help himself is not a surprise. That’s Shimon Peres. Is he guilty? Of course he is. However, the real guilty party is Ariel Sharon since, as the Prime Minister of Israel, he allowed this to happen. Moreover, Sharon’s motives for elevating Shimon Peres have come back to haunt him. The world is even more anti-Israel and anti-Sharon than when Sharon came to power back in February.
There is a clear lesson to be learned here. Simply stated, an Israeli leader should first and foremost do what is best for the Jewish people and not worry about world opinion or personal benefit. Had Sharon understood this, then from the outset he would have formed a small right wing government which, although much smaller than the current coalition, would have had the support of 70% of the country and would ironically have been much closer to a ‘national unity government’ than the current unwieldy coalition. Moreover, had such a government been formed that from the outset consistently and uniformly spoke the truth concerning Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians, then not only would the Israeli population have been truly represented but Israel would not have been placed in the current absurd situation where they are being asked to simply forget about all the Jewish blood that has been spilled and to quickly get back to negotiations in order to help America form a coalition with terror states such as Syria and Iran. This simply would not have happened. For this, Israel can thank Ariel Sharon.