Last updated on: 5/12/2008 1:21:00 PM PST

Will Ariel Sharon's absence from Israeli politics help advance the peace process?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Daily Telegraph, a London based newspaper, reported on Jan. 6, 2006:

"Ariel Sharon is unlikely to return as Israel's prime minister after his massive stroke, doctors said last night, threatening to derail faltering steps towards peace in the Middle East.

As Mr. Sharon was placed under heavy sedation, Israeli politicians promised to continue his policies, while quietly jockeying for the succession. Confirmation that Mr. Sharon's military and political career spanning more than half a century was effectively over was given by Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the director of the Hadassah Hospital outside Jerusalem.

Asked if the prime minister could return to work, he said: 'Under the current circumstances it will not be possible.'"

Jan. 6, 2006 - Daily Telegraph (U.K.) 

James Bennet, former Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the New York Times, in a Jan. 8, 2006 New York Times Week in Review article "History Interrupted," wrote:

"It is hard to imagine Mr. Sharon's own gambits at an end... He almost certainly planned to pull some Israeli settlers out of parts of the West Bank, but how soon, and from which areas? Did he envision signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians from behind the West Bank barrier he mapped out? One that would provide them sovereignty in a viable state? Or did he want to cage the Palestinians in barricaded enclaves like Gaza? Its ends still unknown, its ultimate achievements still uncertain, one of the most audacious exercises of leadership in Israel's history came to an abrupt close at a moment of resounding ambiguity."

Jan. 8, 2006 - James Bennet 

Thomas L. Friedman, MA, New York Times Foreign Affairs Columnist, in a Jan. 11, 2006 New York Times Op-Ed "Wanted: An Arab Sharon," wrote:

"Had Mr. Sharon passed from the scene several years ago, before becoming prime minister, his epitaph would have read: 'Israel's most brutal Arab fighter, settlement-builder and hard-liner' -- period.

But you can't write his biography without his term as prime minister, which has been his finest and wisest hour. There are not many 77-year old leaders who not only acknowledge that one of their greatest projects in political life [settlement building] was wrong and posed a dire threat to the future of their people, but then also risk their remaining lives and political careers to reverse it."

Jan. 11, 2006 - Thomas L. Friedman, MPhil 

PRO (yes)

Hisham Ahmed, PhD, Professor of Political Science at Birzeit University, in a Jan. 9, 2006 Bitter Lemons commentary titled "At A Crossroads," wrote:

"There is now a real opportunity for potential Israeli leaders to capture the moment, shift gears and enter into a genuine peace process. Palestinian memory is impregnated with Sharon's role as the butcher of Kibya and Sabra and Shatila. When Palestinians think of Sharon they think of settlements; they think of the cantonization of their cities, towns, villages and refugee camps, particularly after the erection of this abhorrent apartheid wall. In other words, Sharon's legacy among Palestinians is a most bitter, painful and bloody one. Without him, potential Israeli leaders have an opportunity to reverse the trend and take on board the lesson that should have been learned from Sharon: brutal confrontation will not create peace, security and stability for Israelis."

Jan. 9, 2006 - Hisham Ahmed, PhD 

Uri Avnery, Israeli peace activist and former Israeli Knesset Member in a Jan. 7, 2006 Gush Shalom commentary titled "A Napoleon, Made in Israel," wrote:

"Peace is made between nations once they can [sic] are all assured freedom, well being and mutual respect. This is not what Sharon had in mind. As a military man, he was aware only of truce. Had peace been handed to him on a platter, he would not have recognized it."

Jan. 7, 2006 - Uri Avnery 

Henry Siegman, former Director of the US/Middle East Project for the Council on Foreign Relations, in a Jan. 8, 2006 Observer commentary "He Never Intended an Equitable Solution in Israel," wrote:

"The precedent Sharon sought to establish was not for additional disengagements from the West Bank (other than from isolated areas and major Palestinian population centers). Rather, he intended Gaza to serve as a precedent for a continuing unilateralism enabling Israel to retain de facto control of the West Bank, even if a nominal Palestinian state were to come into existence. Sharon believed a nominal state was the only way for Israel to deal with the demographic challenge posed by Palestinian population growth and - equally important - the only way to retain US support for its unilateralism.

Sharon's ideas for an imposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a narrow conception of security that considers Palestinian national aspirations and Palestinian rights, a notion foreign to Sharon, as irrelevant, constitute a dubious foundation for peacemaking."

Jan. 8, 2006 - Henry Siegman 

Saree Makdisi, PhD, Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Los Angles, in a Jan. 8, 2006 Electric Intifada commentary titled "The Whitewashing of Ariel Sharon," wrote:

"Sharon's approach to peacemaking in recent years wasn't very different from his approach to war. Extrajudicial assassinations, mass home demolitions, the construction of hideous barriers and walls, population transfers and illegal annexations -- these were his stock in trade as 'a man of courage and peace.'

Some may take comfort in the myth that Sharon was transformed into a peacemaker, but in fact he never deviated from his own 1998 call to 'run and grab as many hilltops' in the occupied territories as possible. His plan for peace with the Palestinians involved grabbing large portions of the West Bank, ultimately annexing them to Israel, and turning over the shattered, encircled, isolated, disconnected and barren fragments of territory left behind to what only a fool would call a Palestinian state."

Jan. 8, 2006 - Saree Makdisi, PhD 

MIFTAH, a Palestinian non-governmental organization, in a Jan. 9, 2003 editorial "The Middle-East Peace Process, After Sharon," wrote:

"With the Israeli PM, so to say, laying the foundations for a very unjust peace agreement with the Palestinians, it would be fair to say that in terms of striking a genuine peace agreement, which many Palestinians and Israel's have sought, the future looks quite grim. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, and what many media and political analysts have been uttering in recent days, that Palestinians have lost a partner they can do business with, Palestinians have actually been freed from a unilateralist leader."

Jan. 9, 2003 - MIFTAH - The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy 

Michael Young, MA, Opinion Editor at the Daily Star in Beirut, in a Jan. 12, 2006 commentary "Sharon's Plaudits Won't Survive Israel's Future Wars," wrote:

"Sharon's strategy of unilateral disengagement, by helping create an aborted, dependant, anarchic Palestinian entity, will ensure that Israel one day abuts a failed state. This state will only nourish Palestinian frustrations, making true peace with Israel illusory. A cornerstone of Sharon's strategy since taking office has been his overseeing the systematic destruction of institutions of Palestinian statehood, allowing the Islamists and Fatah hotheads to fill the void. In this way, Sharon could claim he had no credible interlocutor to negotiate with...

Now, a democratic Palestine seems far away, while the Israelis must face the consequences of missing out on what Oslo offered. Sharon profited from that failure, but what he may impart to his countrymen is perpetual war."

Jan. 12, 2006 - Michael Young, MA 

CON (no)

Former US President Bill Clinton, after a Jan. 9, 2006 meeting with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris, France, said:

"Everybody should be worried [about Sharon's absence]. Mr. Sharon had not only withdrawn from Gaza, he had started a new party with the purpose of continuing to push for peace. All of us who believe in peace in the Middle East are in his debt, and so more than anything else, I pray for his health... His illness - just as 10 years ago Yitzhak Rabin's death - puts yet another obstacle in the path of the peacemakers. It's almost as if God was testing them one more time."

Jan. 9, 2006 - Bill Clinton, JD 

Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, in a Jan. 8, 2006 statement printed in Haaretz, wrote:

"When I first learned about his illness I felt a great deal of pain on the human level, but also strong concern on the political level.

During a radio broadcast for Italian radio from the prime minister's office I mentioned with emotion and affection his utter conviction when he told me that his parents had wanted a free and secure state of Israel that would live in peace with the Arabs.

I am convinced that Sharon, who devoted his entire life to this goal, had moved forward toward the finish line, the line to which whole generations of Israelis had aspired...

The decision to evacuate the settlements and the army from the Gaza Strip was a courageous and extraordinary step that resulted in protest and brought him great pain. Only a statesman of his stature could have dared take this step, which aroused admiration on the Palestinian side as well.

Sharon's illness has unfortunately left the future unclear for Israel and the Middle East."

Jan. 8, 2006 - Silvio Berlusconi, JD 

Benny Morris, PhD, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University, in a Jan. 6, 2006 New York Times Op-Ed titled "In the Shadow of Sharon," wrote:

"The solid center and left of Jewish Israel, the country's majority, who want to trade land for peace and reach a stable two-state solution, are tuning into their televisions this day with heavy hearts. They realize that the best hope for peace, that most unlikely of peacemakers, is exiting the stage and that a vista of turmoil and uncertainty has opened up. To be sure, Israel's political structure remains solid and reassuring. But at this bewildering moment, for those interested in progress in the peace process, there is little reason for hope."

Jan. 6, 2006 - Benny Morris, PhD 

Richard N. Haass, PhD, President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), in a Jan. 6, 2006 CFR interview titled "Haass ‘Somewhat Pessimistic’ About Chances for Progress Toward Israeli-Palestinian Peace With Departure of Sharon From Political Scene," stated:

"In order for any peace process to move forward, be it in the Middle East or anywhere else, you need what I would describe as conditions of ripeness. And two of the principal conditions of ripeness, is that you have leaders who are, one, able, and two, willing, to make compromises for peace, to offer them, but also make them stick in their own domestic politics. I’m not sure on either side now you have leadership that’s both able and willing...

On the Israeli side you may, in people like [Ehud] Olmert, have someone who’s willing to continue Sharon’s policies of serial, unilateral disengagement. But it’s not clear he’s going to have the ability. He doesn’t inherit Sharon’s political mandate. So what this suggests to me, then, for the foreseeable future, is a political process that’s unlikely to move significantly forward."

Jan. 6, 2006 - Richard N. Haass, PhD 

Saul Singer, editorial-page editor of the Jerusalem Post, in a Jan. 05, 2006 National Review Online article titled "Sharon’s Legacy: Strength and Humility and the Middle East," wrote:

"As the chief architect of the settlement enterprise, he was in a unique position to embody the dramatic Israeli evolution from seeing a Palestinian state as an existential threat to something closer to a necessity to preserve the nation's Jewish and democratic character...the constituency for Sharon's legacy — fighting terrorism while remaining open to major concessions for true peace — will not disappear, and will be reflected in whatever constellation of parties emerges."

Jan. 05, 2006 - Saul Singer