Thursday, January 05, 2006

On the Loss of Ariel Sharon as PM

It's too soon to write the "old warhorse" off,- we hope and pray that he will not only survive, but also resume his leadership role! Halevaj!

Tikkun Community Newsletter

News Release: On the Loss of Ariel Sharon.
Please reprint and circulate widely.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine: A bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, and national chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, issued the following statement upon hearing of the near-death hospitalizaiton of Ariel Sharon:

The Loss of Ariel Sharon

by Rabbi Michael Lerner

Many of us in the peace movement will be praying for Ariel Sharon’s recovery even though we still see him as an obstacle to peace in the long run. While we would never wish for the death of anyone, even our enemies, we might have hoped that people like the PResident of Iran, or Syrian dictator Asad, or even President Bush would be peacefully removed from office quickly. Yet the developments of recent months have made many peaceniks hope that Sharon would stay in office at least through the completion of the next half year.

The reason is that Ariel Sharon has done what no one on the Left was able to do: split the Right, marginalize the extremists who believe that holding on to the biblical vision of the Land of Israel is a divine mandate, and acknowledge that a smaller Israel with defensible borders is preferable to a large Israel that requires domination of three million Palestinians.

Sharon was not just a talker, he was a doer. Once he really understood that Israel could not hope to retain support of even its most enthusiastic allies if it continued the 39 year old occupation, he dramatically withdrew several thousand settlers from Gaza and withdrew troops to the 67 borders.

When his own political party, the Likud, repudiated his decisive actions, he quit and began to create a center-right party, Kadima, that was, according to the most recent polls, likely to win 1/3 of the delegates in the new Knesset, and to ally with the center/left Labor party headed by a social justice crusader Amir Peretz in forming a new government.

The potential government that might have emerged would have likely been more sensitive to the social justice needs of Israelis and might have pushed Sharon to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinian people rather than continue to impose one along borders that he had unilaterally decided (as he unilaterally decided to leave Gaza without making arrangements that could have given the Palestinian Authority the power to effectively challenge the Hamas and other extremist groups that are currently wreaking havoc).

Precisely because of his past as a ruthless militarist who cared little for the humanity of the Palestinian people, Sharon managed to bring with him in the steps toward creating a Palestinian state sections of the Israeli population who are not committed to holding on to the West Bank for religious reasons, but who worry greatly about their own physical security from Palesitnian terror and trusted that Sharon was an expert in that sphere. It is hard to imagine anyone having the same credibility with those voters and the same ability to gather their support for a Palestinian state. For that reason, Sharon’s absence from politics is a grave setback for those who hoped to build peace step by step.

Few of us in the peace movements had any illusions, though, that Sharon ever intended to negotiate a Palestinian state with borders that would have been acceptable (roughly those agreed upon between Palestinians and former Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin in the Geneva Accord). In fact, Sharon’s closest advisors tried to explain to Likud rejectionists that Sharon’s plan for unilateral withdrawals were precisely aimed at stopping the Geneva Accord and other such plans from getting majority support in Israel and among Israel’s allies abroad. It was also intended to derail the Road Map issued by President Bush.

Sharon’s plan was to finish completion of a Wall that he has built through the West Bank that incorporates the bulk of the settlers, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and to declare that the new boundary of Israel, then forcibly remove the 1/6 of settlers who were not inside that Wall and allow Palestinians to have approximately half of the West Bank for a Palestinian state, cris-crossed by Israeli roads in which the Israeli military would continue to militarily police the Jordan Valley. The Wall is already nearing completion, and if Sharon had the political mandate, that would become the expanded boundary of Israel.

Sharon has systematically ignored the humanity of the Palestinian people, violated their basic human rights, escalated torture and massive military assaults against civilian targets, escalated the use of targeted assassinations of “suspected” militants, and refused to negotiate with the mild-mannered Palestinian prime minister Abbas. He has not been a man of peace.

Yet the loss of Sharon will be mourned by many of us in the peace movement because his current moves, insensitive as they were to the needs of Palestinians, seemed to be the one viable way to build an Israeli majority for concessions that might eventually create the conditions for a more respectful and mutual reconciliation with the Palestinians, thereby bringing peace to Israel.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine: A Bimonthly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society and author of The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (HarperSanFrancisco, Feb, 2006).


Lydia said...

hello, just letting you know that I might be reading through your blog once in a while-- your posts are interesting to me as I am currently studying the Israel/Palistine conflict.

please continue writing, your blog is very nice :)

RodoMXOZ said...

Greetings from Mexico.

Though far away from the Middle East, we are also keeping an eye out for Ariel Sharon and hoping that he recovers from his stroke or that the spirit of peace and moderation survive him in this oh so long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.