Sharon’s Turn

Almost all of the obituaries on Ariel Sharon, use the cliché of controversiality, falling into the conceptual trap of a political and ethical turn ascribed to almost all renowned Israeli politicians. Indeed, anybody responsible for any substantial change in the course of history almost necessarily becomes a controversial personality. However, Sharon had a controversiality of a “bulldozer” a more suitable nickname to describe his legacy.

a photograph of Ariel Sharon, 2005

Ariel Sharon photographed in 2005 shortly before his stroke. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

Sharon’s famous hitnatkut (Hebrew for detachment, separation, disengagement), a decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza is ubiquitously mentioned to support Sharon’s supposed turnaround. The 2005 withdrawal should prove his turning from a tough soldier and into a moderate politician that is ready for compromises while seeking a lasting and peaceful solution of the conflict.

For this move, which Sharon called “painful concessions” to the Palestinians, he was hailed as “a man of peace” and “a man of courage” by U.S. President George W. Bush. The pictures of Jewish settlers resisting to leave their homes in the Gaza strip and dragged by army and police forces are etched in the social medial memory of that “battle of peace”.

After IDF moved out of the Gaza strip, the area was practically sealed off from the outer world by both Israel and Egypt then still under Mubarak’s regime. Has anybody in their right minds expect Gaza to become an exemplary democracy under these conditions? When fundamental rights (such as a right of movement) of a population are decided by political forces on which it has no democratic influence, it is more likely to opt for a fundamentalist option to return to itself the control over its destiny.

Beside being based on simple security calculations, the “historical” withdrawal was nothing but a successful tactical move to maintain the status quo of the occupation for any foreseeable future. What it created is a long lasting opportunity of the following rhetorical figure: “Good-willingly, we gave Palestinians land, but they elected a terrorist organization to government and shell us with rockets ever since. How can we trust them ever again? There is no partner for negotiations. The only solution is that of power.”