The former Israeli Prime Minister was known as ‘The Bulldozer’: a giant of Israel’s political scene he courted controversy throughout his long careerby Toby Greene / January 11, 2014 / Leave a comment
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died aged 85
In a remarkably prescient passage of Amos Oz’s 1991 novel Fima, one of his characters—a taxi driver—voices his views on the peace process. The cabby talks about the need to divide the land with the Palestinians, likening it to a Tallit (a Jewish prayer shawl) that two people are fighting over which should be cut in half. Prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords this was itself an unusual viewpoint in Israel. But then the character continues, “What I will say to you, and listen hard, is there’s only one man in this country strong enough to cut the tallit in half without getting cut in half himself, and that’s Arik Sharon. Nobody else can do it. They’ll take it from him.”
Whatever one thought of Ariel Sharon’s politics, Arik was a man of strength and action. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but he never shied away from the responsibility to assess the situation, to determine the best response, and to act. Sharon’s self-possession and determination were the source of his most spectacular triumphs, as well as his gravest errors.
His nickname “the bulldozer” was apt to the end of his political career, when in 2005 he smashed through the walls of opposition to forcibly withdraw Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and a small part of the West Bank—partially fulfilling the unlikely prediction of Oz’s taxi driver. It was not the first time Sharon had forced Israeli settlers to abandon their homes. He oversaw the evacuation of Israel’s settlements in the Sinai as Defence Minister in 1982—part of the implementation of the peace agreement with Egypt.
When, after 1967, Sharon believed Israel’s national interests required retention of the territories Israel had captured, he led the way in promoting settlement construction. When he determined that Israel’s continued presence had become the greater threat to its future, he was willing to go back to the drawing board and tear down what he had helped create.
The same was true of his approach to party politics. Sharon was instrumental in the merger of several parties to form the right-wing Likud party in 1973, helping lay the groundwork for the political “revolution” which toppled Labour in the 1977 election. But when the party…