Netanyahu blasts Ariel Sharon at memorial marking former PM's death

PM, who quit Sharon's government to protest Gaza withdrawal, said leaving the Strip did not achieve the former premier's goals of bringing about security and peace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip at a memorial ceremony marking two years since Sharon’s death Monday evening at the Knesset.
Netanyahu, who quit Sharon’s government to protest the withdrawal, said leaving the Gaza Strip did not achieve Sharon’s goals of bringing about security and peace.
“In Gaza, we received a base for Hamas terrorism adjacent to our territory,” Netanyahu said. “Unfortunately, transferring control over and responsibility for Gaza to the Palestinians not only did not set us on the path to peace, it enhanced the arming of terrorist organizations. Our obligation is to at least learn the necessary lessons from this episode.”
Netanyahu said one of the lessons was that any land Israel leaves in the future must be demilitarized. But he did not rule out further withdrawals or speak against the creation of a Palestinian state.
Former Kadima MKs who attended the event said it was inappropriate that Netanyahu attacked the former prime minister at a memorial ceremony.
MK Nachman Shai, who is currently in Zionist Union, said Netanyahu’s behavior was “tasteless” but that he was not surprised due to the bad blood between the two former Likud rivals who fought politically for decades.
But the former prime minister’s son, former MK Omri Sharon, said after the event that he did not notice that Netanyahu had attacked his father.
“I thought he was respectful and that it was a good speech,” Sharon said. “He presented his viewpoint. It was fine, not too extreme.”
Netanyahu did praise Sharon’s army career and said his legacy would be his success fighting terrorism in 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog painted Sharon as the father of his own ideas of separating from the Palestinians.
Herzog, who served as Sharon’s housing minister, said that were he still alive, he would have completed the construction of the West Bank security fence.
“Israel must continue the path Sharon started,” Herzog said. “I hear all those who attack Sharon for withdrawing from Gaza. But it is interesting that I do not hear any of them recommend that we return to Gaza.”