J Street honors the memory of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a soldier and statesman who left an indelible mark on Israel and the Middle East.
Sharon will be remembered for many things – his bold thrust across the Suez Canal during the war of 1973, his role in planning the vast expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and his tenure as Defense Minister, when he presided over the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
As Prime Minister, Sharon, like many of his predecessors, realized that Israel’s survival as a democratic, Jewish homeland depends on a two-state resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians. This understanding led him to to break with the Likud Party and to implement Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. When he was cut down by a massive stroke in January 2006, Sharon was planning a similar withdrawal from the West Bank.
One lesson from the Gaza withdrawal is that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians can only really be solved by the sides negotiating a peace agreement that ends the Israeli occupation, establishes a Palestinian state and settles all outstanding issues and claims. Still, Sharon deserves credit for the intellectual journey he took during his life and for having the courage to lead. His incapacitation, when at the height of his powers, leaves the challenge of making peace to be fulfilled by his successors, notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sharon reminded us that “Israel is a Jewish worldwide project,” and so it is fitting that the loss of its 11th prime minister will be felt not only in Israel, but in Jewish communities around the world. We offer condolences to his family and to the people of Israel.