The passing of Ariel Sharon, former military leader and prime minister of Israel was met with a variety of emotion by both Israeli and Palestinians. In some cases, there were sorrowful tears but in other cases, the tears indicated joy.
In speaking out on the death of his longtime friend, Israeli President Shimon Peres called him a valiant soldier and a leader who was not afraid to take risks. He said that Sharon was one of the chief architects of Israel as it is known today.
Peres described Sharon as a man who did not know the meaning of fear and was certainly never afraid to articulate a vision for his country. The president said he knew how to make hard decisions and then act on them.
Responses from Palestinian leadership, however, were not so positive. A spokesman for the Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, called it a historical day and said that Sharon’s hands carried the blood of citizens of Palestine who dwelt in the West Bank or in Gaza. He alluded to the idea that Sharon should have been charged with war crimes. In Ramallah, a city on the West Bank, it was reported by the Associated Press that many people cheered in the public streets over the news of Sharon’s demise.
Obviously, the late prime minister took some hard stances and would often make unexpected shifts in policy. For this reason, there are myriads of ideas about his legacy. One columnist said that the man’s legacy is full of many contradictions. The writer said that he was either loved or hated and that sometimes, Israeli citizens felt both emotions in equal portions when it came to Sharon.
Sharon was known for his advocacy of allowing Israeli citizens to establish residence in Palestinian properties that had been captured in the war in 1967. However, many citizens of Israel were shocked in 2005 when he ordered thousands of Jewish citizens to leave their homes in the Gaza Strip.
Current Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said that Sharon had played key roles in the history of Israel. Netanyahu, however, did not mention the 2005 Gaza strip withdrawal. Netanyahu had opposed Sharon when this action took place. Today, he said that the memory of Sharon would forever be in the hearts of his country. He referred to him as one with courage and said he was an outstanding leader in the Israeli military.
After news of his passing, the Israeli military released rare photographic images of Sharon during his military years. Upon his passing, the army published rare archival material and images of Sharon throughout the years and battles.
Israeli leader Naftali Bennet, who serves as Economy Minister, said that the day should be set aside to focus on Sharon’s acts of greatness. He cautioned others to remember that there will be time to discuss some of Sharon’s more controversial decisions at a later date. Bennet is a member of a party that is in favor of the settlement of Israeli people in Palestinian territory. The same party also strongly opposes any type of negotiation with the Palestinians.
A senior official with the Fatah, Jibril Rajub, called Sharon a war criminal. Another member of the Fatah leadership, Jamal Muheisen said that the late Israeli leader had committed atrocious crimes against the Palestinians and is now having to face God for those acts.
As arrangements are put together, a wider variety of emotions over Sharon’s passing can continue to be expected.
By Rick Hope