Comment: Sharon's true legacy

"Leaders are judged by their ability to make decisions, even if they are tough," Netanyahu told the Likud faction last week. Hearing that would have made Sharon proud.

January 11, 2014 14:36
2 minute read.
Ariel Sharon alone at the Knesset [file].

Ariel Sharon alone at the Knesset [file].. (photo credit: REUTERS/Natalie Behring)


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Shas’s faction room in the Knesset has a large portrait of the party’s late mentor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Labor’s room has a massive painting of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. When Kadima’s faction was larger, it had a picture of party founder Ariel Sharon.

But now Kadima has only two seats. Current leader Shaul Mofaz and MK Yisrael Hasson were never particularly close to Sharon, and neither see him as an ideological mentor.

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Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni has exaggerated her closeness to Sharon for political gain, but there is no picture of him in her faction room, and he wouldn’t recognize half of her MKs. He especially would not like to see there MK Amram Mitzna, who ran against him and accused him of corruption.

So where in the Knesset can the legacy of Sharon be found? It is hard to say. There are MKs in Bayit Yehudi and the Likud’s right flank who sound like Sharon did in the 1980s – hawkish politicians who would grab a microphone at a party forum, as he did, and shout, “Who is in favor of annihilating terror?” There are also MKs in Labor and Meretz who still speak of the virtues of Sharon’s Gaza Strip withdrawal, even though it did not turn out the way he envisioned. Due to the dramatic shift in Sharon’s politics near the end of his career, most MKs agreed with him at one point or another.

Therefore, assigning one room in the Knesset to Sharon’s picture cannot really be done. But Sharon’s legacy is still there.

His legacy is there every time a politician takes a key step, knowing full well there will be consequences. He is there every time a leader makes a decision, aware that many people will like it and many people will be devastated by it.

Sharon was known as a bulldozer.

At one point he bulldozed Palestinian terrorists and other enemies of Israel.

Later on, the Jewish communities in Samaria and the Gaza Strip, some of whom he had helped build decades earlier.

If MKs did not like decisions he made, he bulldozed them as well. When the Likud tried to prevent him from withdrawing from Gaza, he bulldozed the party, ignoring the results of an internal party referendum that he himself initiated.

Has that legacy impacted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu? No, or at least not yet.

Netanyahu still has a reputation as a political zigzagger who changes his mind back and forth and easily succumbs to pressure. He is not seen as having the courage to split the Likud the way Sharon did.

But maybe it is too soon to say. Politicians have been known to gain confidence as time goes on.

And maybe all the talk about Sharon over the past two weeks has gotten to Netanyahu.

Perhaps it will make him feel he has something to prove.

“Leaders are judged by their ability to make decisions, even if they are tough,” Netanyahu told the Likud faction last week.

Hearing that would have made Sharon proud.

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