Five years after stroke, is Sharon’s legacy dying?

MKs say party founder gradually being forgotten; “Sharon camp has only one man left in Knesset, and that’s me,” says MK Shai Hermesh.

ariel sharon_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
ariel sharon_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Kadima faction met on Monday under the physical shadow of a picture of party founder Ariel Sharon, but MKs in the faction said that five years after the stroke that ended his career, his influence has faded and he is gradually being forgotten.
Sharon lies in a coma at Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, but he is regularly brought back to his Negev ranch. The first time he returned to the ranch, television crews accompanied him, but now the public is not told when he comes and goes.
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Although Tuesday is the anniversary of the stroke, Sharon was not mentioned at the Kadima faction meeting.
He was mentioned at a Likud briefing, where a party official noted that all of the current and former Likud leaders on the wall were facing rightward, except for Sharon, who, like a portrait of his erstwhile ally President Shimon Peres, is facing left.
“To my great dismay, Arik is not on the radar screen anymore,” lamented Kadima MK Shai Hermesh, who was a neighbor and close friend of Sharon and his family. “There are those of us who have personal memories of him, but the collective memory of him has faded. It doesn’t surprise me that he was not mentioned in the meeting five years after the stroke. He was not mentioned on the third or fourth anniversary, either. All that’s left of him now are the pictures on the walls.”
Hermesh noted that some of the MKs who were closest to the former prime minister were no longer in the Knesset, singling out Sharon’s son Omri, Avigdor Yitzhaki, and Tzahi Hanegbi, who wrote a column about missing Sharon for Monday’s Jerusalem Post.
“The Sharon camp has only one man left in the Knesset, and that’s me,” Hermesh said.
A source close to Kadima leader Tzipi Livni said that interpreting the party’s attachment to Sharon based on whether he was mentioned in Monday’s meeting was unfair. He said Livni and other Kadima MKs remembered Sharon and thought about him every day, not just on anniversaries.
In private conversations, Kadima lawmakers expressed opposite views about Sharon’s legacy, with one saying that whenever he did pass on, he would be remembered for trying to draw Israel’s final borders, and another suggesting that Sharon only withdrew from the Gaza Strip to show the world that the Palestinians were incapable of governing themselves peacefully.
MKs on the far Right, meanwhile, suggested that the state stop paying for Sharon’s hospital bills.
National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari said the money should instead be given to the families Sharon evacuated from the Gaza Strip’s Gush Katif in 2005.
Ben-Ari’s colleague, National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz, fondly remembered serving as Sharon’s adviser when he built 120,000 housing units for immigrants, half of which are in Judea and Samaria. Katz said he had many positive memories of Sharon, despite his belief that when he became prime minister, his advisers and family members had led him astray.
“They misled him and allowed him to be part of a grave mistake – uprooting Gush Katif and expelling 10,000 people who still don’t have homes,” Katz said. “Gaza became Hamastan with thousands of Iranian missiles against which we lost soldiers in an unfinished war [Operation Cast Lead two years ago], all because of a decision Sharon made that no one has explained.”
Katz said that all of the leaders of the Gaza disengagement
had since endured hardship and lost power, citing Sharon, former president Moshe Katsav, former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former ministers Avraham Hirchson and Haim Ramon, former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz, and former police commander Uri Bar-Lev.
“Everyone who was a partner in the crime was punished,” Katz said. “I can’t explain God’s ways, but it doesn’t look like a coincidence to me.”