Ariel Sharon Is Missed

6 01 2014

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

It seems like ages since Ariel Sharon slipped into a coma from which he never returned, much less as a political force in this earthly world.  Yet, perhaps he was there after all, resting with the knowledge that he was a man of his times, who had shaped and reshaped history.

He was a complex human being who produced seemingly inconsistent policies.  By being the architect of Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza, despite Palestinian and international protests, he appeared to be forever at odds with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and thus an opponent of peaceful coexistence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and lasting peace in the Middle EastHenry A. Kissinger noted some years ago: “For most of his career, Sharon’s strategic goal was the incorporation of the West Bank into Israel by a settlement policy designed to prevent Palestinian self-government over significant contiguous territory.”

However, he came seemingly full circle and withdrew from Gaza and removed Jewish settlers from both Gaza and the West Bank, and returned their lands to the Palestinians.  Like the hard-liner Richard Nixon who opposed communists and their ideology throughout his life, yet opened the door to China, Sharon was an enigma.  Both were skilled chess players; and perhaps Sharon supported expansive settlements merely as a bargaining chip that would be discarded when it served the interests of peace, or no longer had any strategic value.

He seemed to be a pragmatist who concluded that it was in Israel’s best interests to defend only those lands that were militarily and politically defensible, and sacrifice the rest, and to jettison the settlers who had served as pawns in a larger chess game.  By zigging and then zagging, and by being a key player in the establishment of the right-wing Likud Party and then breaking from it to found the centrist Kadima Party, Sharon proved to be an able and skillful politician right up to the end of his career.

He fought in a Jewish militia opposed to British control; and he served in Israel’s war of independence with the Arab states and in subsequent wars, and was considered a war hero by many Israelis.  He was wounded in a battle to break the siege of Jerusalem and carried its effects all of his life, including near blindness in one eye; and he was grazed by a bullet in the head during a battle many years later.

He visited the Temple Mount to emphasize Israel’s claim of sovereignty, outraging Muslims and provoking widespread violence; and he is blamed for the ruthless killing and suffering of countless Palestinians.  Yet, his strength was being more in tune with Israeli public opinion than anyone else.  Ghazi al Saadi, a Palestinian commentator, described Sharon as “the first Israeli leader who stopped claiming Israel had a right to all of the Palestinians’ land.”  He added:  “A live Sharon is better for the Palestinians now, despite all the crimes he has committed against us.”

Like Yitzhak Rabin before him, whose mantle he assumed, history will judge Sharon’s accomplishments and speculate as to what a difference his continued leadership might have meant in the future.  It is certain, however, that Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu is no Ariel Sharon, nor does he hold a candle to Rabin.  Indeed, Rabin’s widow Leah—who was described by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres as a “lioness”—believed it was the climate of hate that Netanyahu created during the election campaign of 1995, which laid the groundwork for a Jew to assassinate her husband.  She never forgave Netanyahu and detested him.[2]

The fact that Netanyahu attained his coveted goal of leading Israel again, after his scandal-ridden previous attempt at it, may have changed the region’s history forever.  He was the nemesis of both Rabin and Sharon, two giants; and his return from political oblivion may still be marked by untold chaos at a time when political and military adventurism and demagoguery are the last things that are needed from the leader of Israel.

It was a fateful day, however, when a born-again Christian and a Jew, one slim and fit and the other decidedly rotund, shared a helicopter ride; and Sharon gave then-Texas Governor George W. Bush a tour over the Israeli-occupied territories.  On that day and in the days that followed, a bond of mutual respect emerged between Bush and Sharon that would survive the roller coaster of international politics.  They were a political odd couple who seemed to instinctively trust each other at a time in history when trust was a rare currency vis-à-vis the seemingly intractable problems of the Middle East.

Trust has been a missing ingredient during much of the political life of Netanyahu, who has been perceived as being untrustworthy by countless Israelis and leaders of other nations.  Indeed, he has served as a foil against which Sharon’s accomplishments may be viewed and measured.  Sharon emerged as the right leader for Israel at the right time, just as Rabin had done before him.  Netanyahu’s presence on Israel’s political scene makes Sharon’s greatness and that of Rabin stand out in bold relief by comparison.

Sharon’s stroke and coma deprived the Bush administration of its closest working partner in the Middle East.  The clock began ticking in the region again; and there have been reports that Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear installations.  I am forever reminded of what a prominent American (who is a Jew and a strong supporter of Israel) told me several years ago: “I have long thought that Israel will not make it, if only because of what are cavalierly called WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and its very tight geographical compression.  All else is immaterial, including the Palestinians, or us, or the nature of Israel’s [government].”

I was stunned by this person’s words, and I have reflected on them many times since.  Henry Kissinger added several years ago: “Far too much of the debate within the Palestinian camp has been over whether Israel should be destroyed immediately by permanent confrontation or in stages in which occasional negotiations serve as periodic armistices.”  I do not subscribe to the notion that anything is inevitable or “written.”  However, it is courageous and visionary men like Rabin and Sharon who have guided Israel through perilous times, when lesser men would have foundered.

Netanyahu campaigned on a hard-line platform that would grant to a new Palestinian state only a fraction of West Bank land; and effectively, he has brought the peace process to a screeching halt because he opposes such a state entirely, whether he articulates it or not.  When Likud suffered a defeat in the Israeli elections, with Netanyahu at its helm, he characteristically tried to deflect blame from himself by claiming that a comatose Ariel Sharon was responsible for the political “crash.”

The Wall Street Journal put it mildly in an editorial:  “[Netanyahu’s] attempt to blame a dying and helpless Mr. Sharon for Likud’s drubbing . . . was not a class act.”  Indeed, it was tasteless, opportunistic, and among the reasons why so many people view Netanyahu as being pathetic and demonic—but it was certainly consistent with his treatment of both Rabin and Sharon.

Most Israelis believe at least one of two long-time dreams is unattainable; namely, the idea of a “Greater Israel,” and of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.  Contrariwise, the Palestinians have steadfastly refused to repudiate their dream of a “greater Palestine,” stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, which—in the words of Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli journalist and writer—“would supplant and destroy the Jewish state.”

Halevi further opined: “The settlement movement ignored the moral corruption of occupation and the demographic threat to Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state posed by the forcible absorption of several million Palestinians into Israeli society.”  And he added: “Israel will almost certainly find itself without Greater Israel—and without peace.  . . . Confronted with the possibility of a nuclear Iran committed to Israel’s destruction and with a terrorist state emerging in Gaza and the West Bank, Israelis need the sustenance of dreams.”

President Bush pledged to help create an independent Palestinian state before the end of his second term, which suffered a fatal blow with the loss of Sharon, and ended Sharon’s personal ambition to set Israel’s permanent borders too.  The Times of the UK quoted one official as saying: “It [was] unbelievable.  He was the Prime Minister.  Nothing moved without going through him.  Everything was connected to him and then he faded away,” the official said, with a click of his fingers.

Perhaps the return to business as usual showed the strength of Israel’s democracy and political system, which has been surprisingly stable; or maybe it was a sign that his stroke had not shaken the country to the same extent as the assassination of Rabin.  Or maybe it was simply another reminder of how fame is fleeting, and the public’s attention span is short in Israel and other media-driven societies, especially in the age of 24-hour news cycles.  Yet, Sharon is missed; that much is certain—and I never thought that I would write those words or feel this way.[3]

I disagreed with his settlement policies for many years, believing they were harmful to the settlers who trusted him because ultimately they would feel betrayed; and that such policies were unnecessarily confrontational and antagonistic to the Palestinians.  However, I have missed “Arik,” and I know people in various parts of the world, Jews and non-Jews alike, feel the same way.  He was a giant of Israeli politics.  More than that, he was a lion—albeit a rotund one—God love him.

© 2014, Timothy D. Naegele

Ariel Sharon


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.,www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com; see also Google search:Timothy D. Naegele

[2]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/ (“Israel’s Senseless Killings And War With Iran”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu/ (“The Madness Of Benjamin Netanyahu”) (see also the comments beneath both articles).

[3]  See also http://world.time.com/2014/01/03/israel-wakes-up-to-ariel-sharon-as-former-prime-minister-nears-death/?iid=gs-main-lead (“Israel Wakes Up to Ariel Sharon as Former Prime Minister Nears Death”) and http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/ariel-sharon-war-of-independence-disengagement-settlements.html (“Ariel Sharon’s decisions shaped today’s Israel”) and http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/01/23/060123fa_fact_shavit (“THE GENERAL”); compare http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/03/ariel-sharon-final-mission-peace-israel (“Ariel Sharon’s final mission might well have been peace”) with http://mwcnews.net/focus/politics/35072-sharon.html (“The Guardian Laments Sharon”)






Israel’s Senseless Killings And War With Iran

20 02 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized presidential aspirant Sarah Palin recently for irresponsibly engaging in war-mongering with respect to Iran.  He took issue with Palin’s suggestion that President Obama could help himself politically if he declared war on Iran.

“I don’t think a president can make a judgment like that on the basis of politics,” Cheney said. “The stakes are too high, the consequences too significant to be treating those as simple political calculations. When you begin to talk about war, talk about crossing international borders, you talk about committing American men and women to combat, that takes place on a plane clear above any political consideration.”[2]

Regrettably, the Wall Street Journal did exactly the same thing as Palin, in an editorial entitled, “Obama and Iran.”[3] Its editors fell into the trap of carrying water for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is possibly the most dangerous and irresponsible leader that Israel has ever had.

When Israel engages in targeted killings in Dubai and elsewhere[4], and adopts “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” approach, its enemies around the world are emboldened to respond in kind or worse. In turn, this puts innocent Israelis at risk whenever they travel outside of Israel; and it potentially begets violence against innocent Jews everywhere in the world.  It is so senseless, yet it garners headlines for Mossad—Israel’s national intelligence agency—and makes some Israelis and other Jews feel good and proud.

Clearly, Netanyahu has no qualms about using these tactics.  He was hated by former Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin—and especially by Rabin’s wife Leah, who blamed Netanyahu for her husband’s assassination. She saw “only doom for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process” with Netanyahu at Israel’s helm[5]; and her views were prescient.

Nothing has changed since Leah Rabin’s death, except Netanyahu is once again Israel’s Prime Minister—despite the fact that Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party won the most seats in the Israeli Knesset.  Indeed, it was the first time in Israel’s history that the party with the most seats was not asked to govern.[6] Quite predictably, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is going nowhere, which is likely until Netanyahu leaves office. In the interim, the United States must not be drawn into hostilities with Iran, or another war that the American people oppose vehemently.

To those who would argue that getting rid of Netanyahu changes nothing, except possibly to get rid of an ally who is willing to fight back, the answer is that Netanyahu is not an ally of the United States.  He never has been, and he never will be.  He is a narcissistic impediment to peace in the Middle East, and always has been.  He is a moral midget and a pygmy when compared with Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin, who were both courageous and remarkable men and had the credentials to prove it. 

Again, Leah Rabin was right in seeing “only doom for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process” with Netanyahu at Israel’s helm.  The sooner he is gone, the better.

Fortunately—like Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin and other world leaders before him—it appears that Barack Obama learned early on that Netanyahu is dishonest and cannot be trusted. Also, Obama seems determined not to be manipulated by Netanyahu, which bodes well with respect to American policies vis-à-vis Iran and Israel, at least for now.  The Wall Street Journal’s editorial is irresponsible when it describes “Iran as the single biggest threat to . . . U.S. security.”[7] This is utter nonsense.

American hearts go out to the advocates of democracy in Iran, many of whom have been arrested, tortured and killed recently.  These opponents of the country’s brutal theocracy deserve U.S. support whenever, wherever and however possible.  Regrettably, Obama did not support them.  Like the courageous peoples of Eastern Europe who have become our partners in NATO[8], this seems to have been an opportunity that was lost at least for now, but not forever.

Regarding those who irresponsibly advocate that the United States should go to war with Iran, we have not gone to war to free the oppressed peoples of North Korea, Cuba or other totalitarian-controlled countries; and an exception for Iran is not warranted.  Surely—with our ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—neither the Wall Street Journal nor any other responsible media organization is advocating that America embark on a third war without end, against Iran, much less as Israel’s “sponsor” or at Netanyahu’s behest.  That is lunacy.

One of the greatest concerns today involves the possibility of an EMP Attack against America—by al-Qaeda, North Korea, Iran, or by China, Russia or their surrogates.  Our only real protection is a reliable, broad-based missile defense system, which Obama has been taking steps to weaken.[9] Similarly, as the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer has written:

[T]he Obama 2011 budget kills [the U.S. Space Shuttle’s replacement,] Constellation. Instead, we shall have nothing. For the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the United States will have no access of its own for humans into space—and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future.[10]

This has serious strategic ramifications too, aside from the peaceful exploration of space.

Lastly, what are America’s alternatives to the use of force against Iran?  Aside from supporting democratic movements within the country, as we did in the case of Eastern Europe, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial outlines steps that can be taken now, which should have been implemented ages ago to put the screws to Iran.[11] More “dithering” is not an option, but neither is war.[12]

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (www.naegele.com).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See, e.g.www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles

[2] See http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=9821035

[3] See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ObamaandIran.pdf

[4] See, e.g.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7028123.ece and http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7025821.ece; see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1251581/Terror-innocent-Britons-named-Mossad-assassins.html and http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7029553.ece and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703444804575071561636104090.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLEThirdNews

[5] See, e.g., http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/7367/leah-rabin-calls-netanyahu-all-political-manipulation/ and http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9605/29/israel.leah.rabin/index.html

[6] Some of the tactics used against Israeli government officials include arrest warrants issued in other countries, such as against Livni. See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzipi_Livni#UK_arrest_warrant

[7] See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ObamaandIran.pdf

[8] See http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/nato_countries.htm

[9] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/

[10] See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/11/AR2010021103484.html

[11] See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ObamaandIran.pdf

[12] See also http://www.naegele.com/documents/NukeIranToSaveIsrael.pdf