Thursday, January 05, 2006

What Sharon Did

Christopher Hitchens's analysis into the transformation of Ariel Sharon, from a belligerent military commander to a peace-seeking, middle-of-the-road politician:

On the day after Ariel Sharon's massive stroke, it's not difficult to remember a time when the news of his demise would have been, not to be too callous about it, something that would have been welcomed by all Palestinians, many Israelis, and many others with an interest in democracy and human rights. The best way of reminding oneself of this is to take a short refresher course in the 1983 Kahane Commission Report, which investigated the filthy pogrom at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut and which recommended that the prime minister consider removing Sharon from office.

...Thus, when Ariel Sharon the Arik who had been the hero of the settlers and of those who believed in "transfer" or expulsion announced that "occupation" was the only word to describe the situation in the territories, the shock was quite something. When he added that the idea of Eretz or "Greater" Israel was in fact a demographic impossibility, the shock was even greater. Together with his colleague and possible successor, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he publicly told the old Zionist hard-liners that the expansionist dream of Vladimir Jabotinsky was one that would have to be abandoned. He must have been aware of the ideological danger here, because he had always been the first to say that any challenge to the right of settlement anywhere was implicitly a challenge to the legitimacy of the state itself.