January 12/14


The Temptation of Jesus
Matthew 04/ 01-11: "Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil.  After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry.  Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple,  and said to him, “If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,‘God will give orders to his angels about you; they will hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’”  Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness.  “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him."


Shame on those who express their joy for the death of others

Elias Bejjani/Shame on those chameleons and opportunists who express their joy and happiness for the death of any human being no matter who he is. Those who do so are inhibited with hatred, merely void of any human feelings and do not respect themselves. In this context we read all statements that hailed the death of Ariel Sharon today


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 12/14

Sharon's true legacy/By: Gil Hofman/J.Post/January 12/14
Ariel Sharon: From Warrior to Man of Peace at Last/
David Pollock /Washington Institute/January 12/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 12/14

Lebanese Related News

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Miscellaneous Reports And News

Ban Ki-Moon Hails Sharon the 'Hero' as Obama, Clinton Say 'Dedicated Life' to Israel

Ariel Sharon: A Bulldozer in War and Peace

Ariel Sharon, brilliant general, divisive politician, is dead

Sharon: Dies at the Age of 85

Israel reacts to passing of iconic leader
US Senator: Sanctions bill is 'insurance policy' to Iran nuclear talks
Iran defends development of advanced centriguges

U.N. Council Backs Iraq Government against Militants

Power Struggle Between Turkey's Two Leaders Heats Up

Iran Invites EU's Ashton to Visit

Papers: Hollande 'Affair' will Overshadow Policy Shift

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote on constitution 'in force'

Egypt's Al-Sisi Says to Run for President if 'Public Demands


Ban Ki-Moon Hails Sharon the 'Hero' as Obama, Clinton Say 'Dedicated Life' to Israel
Naharnet/U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed Ariel Sharon on Saturday as a "hero" to Israelis, who would leave behind a "legacy of pragmatism" in the Middle East.
"Ariel Sharon was a hero to his people, first as a soldier and then a statesman," the U.N. leader said in a statement issued by his spokesman shortly after the Israeli leader's death.
"Prime Minister Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip," Ban said.
"The secretary-general calls on Israel to build on the late prime minister's legacy of pragmatism to work towards the long overdue achievement of an independent and viable Palestinian state, next to a secure Israel," said the U.N. leader, offering "condolences to the bereaved family and to the government and people of Israel."
U.S. President Barack Obama also paid tribute to Sharon, commemorating "a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel.""On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel," a White House statement said.
"We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security. We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security," it added.
Sharon, who died in hospital near Tel Aviv, aged 85, after eight years in a coma, was remembered in warm terms by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who noted that the long-ill ex-premier was "finally at rest."
"I remember reading about Arik in the papers when I was a young lawyer in Boston and marveling at his commitment to cause and country," said Kerry, who is currently leading global efforts to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians.
"I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became prime minister as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace," said Kerry.
"In his final years as prime minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger." Other U.S. politicians also paid tribute.
"I join the people of the Jewish state of Israel in mourning the loss of Ariel Sharon, one of the greatest warrior-statesmen in modern history," said Republican John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives. "Sharon's contribution to establishing and defending Israel's independence is incalculable and his devotion to peace undisputed," Boehner added.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, hailed Sharon's courage "in his decision to disengage from the Gaza Strip," by pulling Israeli forces and settlers out in 2005.
"It was a difficult choice founded in the same tenet that defined so much of Sharon's career: the national security interest of the people and the nation of Israel," Pelosi said in a statement.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, praised Sharon as "a legendary military man," who "distinguished himself as a strategist and a soldier in virtually every major Israeli conflict of the second half of the 20th century."
"Israel has lost one of its greatest sons and America a friend in the passing of Ariel Sharon," McConnell added.
Meanwhile, former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, an ex-Secretary of State, praised Sharon as a leader who "who gave his life to Israel."
In a statement issued shortly after the former Israeli prime minister's death, the Clintons said: "It was an honor to work with him, argue with him, and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country."
"Ariel Sharon gave his life to Israel -- to bring it into being, to sustain and preserve it, and at the end of his long service, to create a new political party committed to both a just peace and lasting security," they added.
Other U.S. politicians also paid tribute to Sharon, who died in hospital near Tel Aviv, aged 85, after eight years in a coma.
"I join the people of the Jewish state of Israel in mourning the loss of Ariel Sharon, one of the greatest warrior-statesmen in modern history," said Republican John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives.
"Sharon's contribution to establishing and defending Israel's independence is incalculable and his devotion to peace undisputed," Boehner added.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, hailed Sharon's courage "in his decision to disengage from the Gaza Strip," by pulling Israeli forces and settlers out in 2005.
"It was a difficult choice founded in the same tenet that defined so much of Sharon's career: the national security interest of the people and the nation of Israel," Pelosi said in a statement.
"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dedicated his life to building, defending, and leading the state of Israel. He was a soldier and an officer, a public servant to his people and a powerful voice for his beliefs and values," she added.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, praised Sharon as "a legendary military man," who "distinguished himself as a strategist and a soldier in virtually every major Israeli conflict of the second half of the 20th century."
"Israel has lost one of its greatest sons and America a friend in the passing of Ariel Sharon," McConnell added.
Sharon was a polarizing figure in his home country, falling foul of the left for his unstinting support for settlement building while alienating the right through a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
But foreign leaders praised his decision on Gaza, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling it "courageous".
With that, "he took an important historic step on the road towards reconciliation with the Palestinians and for a two-state solution," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also hailed Sharon for making "brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated".
"Israel has today lost an important leader," Cameron said in a statement issued by Downing Street of the man who is one of the last members of the generation which founded the Jewish state in 1948.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described Sharon as a "great political and military" figure in condolences sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Kremlin statement.
Putin also said he has a "high esteem of the personal qualities of Sharon and his activities aimed at defending the interests of Israel".
Russia has a complex relationship with Israel, with the two sides enjoying friendly ties even though Moscow is a key backer of Israel's foes such as Iran or Syria.
Source/Agence France Presse


Ariel Sharon, brilliant general, divisive politician, is dead

DEBKAfile Special Report January 11, 2014/Ariel Sharon, Israel’s 11th prime minister, will go down in its military and political figure as a commanding and controversial figure - and a flawed giant. Born on Feb. 26, 1928, he died on… aged 85, without recovering from an eight-year coma induced by a stroke he suffered in 2006.
Sharon was one of Israel’s most celebrated, victorious and innovative generals – and a maverick. He served the Israeli army from its inception in 1948, founding some of its elite units and leading key operations in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and its troubled aftermath.  He emerged from the assault on Sinai in the Six-Day war of 1967 as a brilliant military strategist. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he led a force that encircled the Egyptian Third Army and crossed the Suez, cutting short its massive advance through Sinai to the Israeli frontier. Sharon saved the country by acting in defiance of orders, a fact forgotten by a grateful nation who hailed him as a hero, although he paid for it by failing to attain the top IDF command. He then brought his sledgehammer style and conflicted nature into politics. He first joined Likud and was assigned various ministerial portfolios under Prime Minister Menahem Begin in 1977-92 and in Binyamin Netanyahu’s first administration in 1996-99. As defense minister, he led the IDF to victory against the Palestinians in the 1982 Lebanon War, forcing Yasser Arafat and PLO leaders to abandon their South Lebanese strongholds on the Israeli border and go into exile in Tunisia. But then the world media backed by the Israeli left factions held him responsible for failing to prevent the Lebanese Phalangists’ massacre in the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps. Sharon eventually won a suit for libel against Time Magazine, but association with that atrocity continued to dog him and forced him into early retirement from politics.
In 2000, Sharon made a comeback as Likud leader. Then in 2001, a nation desperate for a savior from the non-stop suicide bombings and bus burnings of the Palestinian intifada massively elected him prime minister.
In a four-month operation he launched in 2002, the IDF resoundingly defeated the Palestinian front. Sharon went on to construct a defense wall along the Green Line as a barrier between the West Bank. He finally held Yasser Arafat, intifada leader, to siege in his Ramallah center of rule. This second siege, like the first in Beirut two decades earlier, ended in Arafat’s exit – this time to France.
In 2005, the hawk and dynamic champion of Israeli West Bank settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, underwent a remarkable transformation. In the face of stormy resistance, he orchestrated Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, forcibly evicting all 8,000 settlers and every last soldier. Under television cameras, weeping families were hauled from their homes which were then razed to the ground. Condemned for this burtal operation in many circles, especially his own Likud, he quit the party and formed the centrist Kadima. Then on Jan. 4, 2006, on the way to easy re-election for another term as prime minister, Sharon was suddenly incapacitated by a crippling stroke. He relapsed into a coma, from which he never recovered. Thursday, Jan. 1, his health began to deteriorate due to kidney failure. His doctors advised the family that corrective procedure would be too risky to undertake in his condition and at his age.With all his flaws, Ariel Sharon, the general and national leader went down as an invincible lion.

Ariel Sharon: A Bulldozer in War and Peace

Sharon was always consistent in his desire to secure Israel’s borders and was often photographed with a map in hand.
Former Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon gazes at the West Bank Photo: Reuters
Israel’s indomitable lion Ariel Sharon, a bulldozer in war and peace, died on Saturday, eight years after suffering a massive brain hemorrhage that left him in a coma from which he never awoke.
Perhaps the most revered and often reviled of the country’s politicians, perceived alternately as a peacemaker and a warmonger, for decades his actions as a military commander and statesman shaped both Israel’s self-perception and the world’s image of the Jewish nation.
From the time he fought in Latrun as a young soldier to save Jerusalem in 1948 to his orchestration as prime minister of the Gaza pullout in August 2005, Sharon was at the center of the modern nation’s historical moments. And like the country he served for most of his 85 years, his life was marked by controversy, deep loss, harsh defeat and miraculous victory.
Sharon was always consistent in his desire to secure Israel’s borders and was often photographed with a map in hand. During his tenure as the 11th prime minister he was determined to redraw those borders based on his vision of the new strategic and demographic concerns of the 21st century. In this pursuit he was not afraid to tear down his own physical, ideological and political works. His health failed him before the task was finished.
Strikingly, throughout his life, either or by chance or design, much of what Sharon built or cherished was lost, destroyed or tarnished. His ability to sustain loss made him fearless in his public pursuits.
Sharon the soldier had seen his friends die in battle by age 20. The family man buried one son and two wives. The gallant military leader with a white bandage across his wounded forehead played an instrumental role in capturing the Sinai desert, only to return it to Egypt years later as a politician. The spiritual father of the settlement movement, Sharon claimed to know the driver of every crane building homes in the territories. But then, as defense minister, he was charged with the razing of the Yamit settlement in Sinai in 1982 and, as prime minister, he ordered the destruction of the Gaza settlements in 2005.
The leader of the Likud Party he had founded in 1973, Sharon catapulted it in 2003 from 19 to 40 Knesset mandates. But then, in November 2005, he crippled it by bolting to form the centrist Kadima Party, taking a host of prominent politicians from across the spectrum with him.
And as the avuncular elder statesman widely, though by no means universally, perceived to know better than his rivals how to steer Israel forward, he was well on his way to a third term in office when his stroke on January 4, 2006, halted his plans to shepherd the nation into a new dawn.
With his white hair, heavyset build, grandfatherly smile and the reading glasses that occasionally slipped down his nose, his image in his later years as well his conciliatory words belied his reputation as an authoritarian political leader and a brutal military commander.
For all the Israelis he alienated throughout his larger-than-life career, however, he was a man generally well-liked on the most personal levels – friendly, courteous and solicitous.
Sharon never left the spotlight for long after he came to national prominence as the dashing war hero of the 1950s. He was lauded as a master military strategist in the Sixties and Seventies. In the early Eighties as defense minister, he was blamed for the failures and excesses of the Lebanon War as well as the massacre of more than 700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp at the hands of Christian Phalangists. As opposition leader in September 2000, his visit to the Temple Mount was used by the Palestinians as a pretext for the second intifada, and he was often a scapegoat for the continued conflict. Five years later, when he was felled by illness, his sudden forced departure from the political stage was perceived as a crisis for peace.
The sabra son of an immigrant Russian farmer who preferred his own counsel to the communal decisions of his neighbors, as prime minister Sharon turned his own similar preference for solo leadership into a diplomatic platform of unilateral disengagement from the Palestinians. It was a move that broke a deadlocked period in the conflict. But Sharon’s seemingly swift turnabout from right-wing leader who coined the famous phrase “the fate of Netzarim was the fate of Tel Aviv” to one who evacuated the Gaza settlement of Netzarim, left his dizzied supporters gasping at the betrayal.
Sharon liked to describe himself first and foremost as a Jew and then as a farmer. In addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September 2005 at the pinnacle of his popularity, he said, “My first love was and remains manual labor: sowing and harvesting, the pasture, the flock and the cattle.”
Circumstances intervened, he said, and instead his life’s path led him “to be a fighter and commander in all Israel’s wars.”
Now, he told world leaders, he had a different purpose. He was reaching out to the Palestinians in “reconciliation and compromise to end the bloody conflict and embark on the path which leads to peace. I view this as my calling and my primary mission for the coming years.”
Hard-line right-wingers who had long believed the prime minister was one of their staunchest advocates felt abandoned by his sudden shift to the Center. His opponents argued that Sharon was simply an opportunist, willing to pay any price and betray any ideal in the pursuit of power. Some said his political shift was designed to deflect corruption allegations, others that he had gone soft.
But Sharon himself had long said that he was not married to one specific path or ideology. “There is no advantage to the person who steadfastly maintains the same position over the years just for the sake of consistency," he said, as early as 1977.
In his autobiography, Warrior, he referred to himself as a “pragmatic Zionist,” a man of action rather than words. When he believed Jewish settlements created security, he constructed them. Persuaded that a security barrier was needed, he built that too. Zalman Shoval, a former ambassador to the US and a long-time adviser, said Sharon was foremost “a pragmatist.” He belonged to a small group of similar-minded soldiers-turned-statesmen such as Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin whose primary consideration was security, rather than ideology, said Shoval. “So you never knew how they would act under certain circumstances.”
Proactive, rather than reactive, in this single-minded pursuit of his goals, Sharon pushed forward with a confident winner-take-all attitude.
Back in 1974, The Jerusalem Post predicted that this style of charging into battle would take him far. “Arik Sharon only knows frontal attacks. That is how he fought the Arabs, that is
how he captured the Likud and that is how he intends to storm and capture the State of Israel,” the Post said.
It was not by chance that in the 1970s, solders in his unit were already chanting, “Arik, king of Israel.”
His longtime friend, journalist Uri Dan, said Sharon loved challenges: “When he was told a mission was impossible, that is what he wanted to do.”
Like his biblical hero, Joshua, who blew down the walls of Jericho with a ram’s horn, Sharon bulldozed his way past all military and political obstacles. In the army, he dodged charges that he failed to follow orders and really accurate information to his superiors. In politics he brushed off his image as a has-been politician who attacked both friend and foe. Teflon-style. he survived unscathed allegations of financial corruption.
Former Likud MK Bennie Begin once said acerbically of Sharon that he was as likely to head their party as he was to become a tennis champion. But at the nadir of Sharon’s checkered army career, after he was forced to resign as defense minister in 1983 following Sabra and Shatilla, Dan made a different prediction.
“Those who rejected [Sharon as chief of staff got him in due time as defense minister,” said Dan. “And those who rejected him as defense minister will get him in due course as prime minister.”
Sharon said that his steadfast determination was rooted in his childhood work on a farm.
In an op-ed article for the Post in 1999 Sharon recalled a day he spent with his father at Kfar Malal. “I was working out in the field with my father on an intensely hot day as thirst plagued us and thousands of flies and gnats buzzed around us, getting into our eyes and noses. We, hoes in hand, continued to work. When my father Shmuel, of blessed memory, who was an agronomist, agricultural scientist and also an outstanding farmer, saw I was getting tired, he would stop a minute, point towards the ground we’d covered and say, “Look how much we’ve already done. And with renewed strength, we would continue work.”
It was this mind-set, wrote Sharon, that came to characterize his own indomitable approach - to daily life and to leading Israel.
“This has always been my way: to appreciate what we have already accomplished and to look forward optimistically.”
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Sharon's true legacy
By GIL HOFMAN/ 01/11/2014/J.Post
"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. Ariel Sharon alone at the Knesset [file]. Photo: REUTERS/Natalie Behring  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 Hason were never particularly close to Sharon and neither sees him as an ideological mentor. 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 it. Due to the dramatic shift in Sharon's politics near the end of his career, most of the 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 he 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 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 would 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.


Former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon dead: Army Radio
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli general and prime minister who was in a coma for eight years after he had a stroke at the height of his power, died on Saturday aged 85, Israeli Army Radio said, quoting a relative of his family. The hospital where Sharon was being treated called a media conference for about 0800 ET. (Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Sharon: Dies at the Age of 85

January 11, 2014/By Nadia Massih The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died Saturday aged 85, was widely reviled in Lebanon for his role in the invasion of the country in 1982 as well as the massacres at the Beirut-based Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Sharon was commonly dubbed the “Butcher of Beirut” for his association with some of the worst atrocities during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War.
He was a part of the Israeli military since the country’s creation, as a member of the Jewish Haganah paramilitaries in the 1947-48 war that led to the ‘Nakba,’ displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. He rose through the ranks with his belligerent military strategies, leading a brigade in the 1956 Suez War, and engineering the capture of the Sinai Peninsula 11 years later during the Six Day War.
However, it was in his political career that he will be most controversially remembered.
As Defense Minister he spearheaded the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, set up to rout out Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization and form a peace accord with the Beirut government. The invasion morphed into a long occupation, and inadvertently helped to confirm Hezbollah’s status as the resistance party. In 1982, Israel’s ally Bashir Gemeyel was assassinated by Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party member Habib Chartouni. His Kataeb (Phalange) fighters looked to the Palestinians to avenge the death and launched an attack of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, which were under Israeli control. Hundreds of Palestinians, including many women and children, were brutally killed. It was a massacre that Sharon was personally implicated in. A U.N. investigation the next year concluded that Israel was responsible for the attacks, and the Israeli-run Kahan Commission the same year determined that Sharon was personally accountable. The reports’ findings said that Sharon bore responsibility for "for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge" and "not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed." The conclusions led many to dub Sharon the “Butcher of Beirut” and forced him to resign from the defense post but he refused to leave Cabinet, remaining minister without portfolio.
His bellicose reputation continued into his tenure as prime minister. In 2000, he walked brazenly into the Temple Mount complex which houses the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa mosque, some of the holiest sites in Islam. The inflammatory move was widely attributed as sparking the Second Palestinian Intifada. He was also associated with the widespread expansion of illegal outposts in the West Bank. As Housing Minister in the 1990s, he oversaw the biggest drive settlements in 20 years. However, despite his uncompromising attitude, in 2004 he signed into law a plan to re-house all settlers in the Gaza Strip.)


Israel reacts to passing of iconic leader
Ynet Published: 01.11.14/Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had touched the lives of many politicians and public figures
President Shimon Peres mourned the passing of Ariel Sharon, saying "Sharon surrendered today to a heroic battle for his life. Arik was a brave soldier and a daring statesman, who donated much to the security and fortification of the State of Israel." He said, "Arik loved his people, and his peope loved him. He was one of Israel's greatest defenders and chief architects, who never knew fear and never lack for vision. Sharon knew how to decide and how to act." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the news of the historic leader's passing: "Ariel Sharon had a central role in the battle for Israel's security from the very beginning. He was first and foremost a brave soldier and a distinguished military leader, among the greatest commanders in the IDF ." Netanyahu added, "His memory will be saved forever in the heart of the nation." Treasury Minister Yair Lapid, whose father Joseph Lapid was often politically aligned with the former prime minister, commented on the news: "Sharon was one of the most distinguishable of Israeli leaders. A brave soldier and commander in the field, a leader without comparison in the diplomatic and political field, and a dear friend." "The State of Israel, which has missed Sharon's figure for eight years, mourns his death," said Lapid.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni mourned the passing of former Kadima chairman: "Arik Sharon was a farmer, a fighter, and a prime minister who became a father of a nation, but more than anything he was a man I loved."
"They say veteran soldiers never die – they fade away. Arik faded away eight years ago, and now he has left us for good. We had eight years to say goodbye, and yet we couldn't. We say goodbye to him now. My deepest condolences to Omri and Gilad who fought for his life with him and were always by his side," she added. Ehud Olmert, who replaced Sharon as prime minister, mourned the loss: "For his entire life Arik stood in the line of fire – in the place where Israel's destiny is determined." He added: "In the eight years since he collapsed he was missed by the State of Israel and by me personally. His absence will continue to be felt in the future as well."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon mourned the passing of Ariel Sharon: "Despite the fundamental differences we discovered along the way, I always appreciated his experience and his leadership." He added that "Ariel Sharon was first and foremost an outstanding military leader and one of the shapers of the IDF as an army which strives for swift actions against the enemy."


Hariri Heads March 14 Delegation for STL Opening Session
Naharnet /Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Saturday that he will attend the opening session of the trial of the alleged killers of his father, late premier Rafik Hariri, on January 16 in The Hague.
“Hariri will head a March 14 delegation to attend the opening session of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” radio Voice of Lebanon (93.3) reported on Saturday afternoon. The STL announced in December 2013 that its Trial Chamber has scheduled the start of trial in the case of the 2005 assassination of late premier Hariri and his companions for January 16, 2014. The STL also confirmed that it has received Lebanon’s share of the 2013 budget from the government. The full sum of 29, 386, 609 euros, amounting to 49 per cent of the tribunal's budget, was transferred to the STL's bank account, it said. In 2011, the court accused four Hizbullah members -- Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra – of being involved in the attack. A fifth Hizbullah suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in 2013. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has rejected the STL, describing it as an American-Israeli product bent on destroying the party. He has vowed never to cooperate with the tribunal, saying that the suspects, who remain at large, will never be found.
Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive car bomb in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Source/Agence France Presse


Ban Warns against 'Political Vacuum,' Hails STL Trial to End Impunity
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has said the trial of the suspects in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination next week was an important step to achieve justice as he warned that the absence of a new government in Lebanon could lead to a “political vacuum.” In remarks to reporters in New York, Ban said Thursday that he was looking forward for the start of the trial against four Hizbullah members in absentia at the seat of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague. “This is an important step to achieve justice” in Hariri's case and a series of other murders against Lebanese officials. “The international community is determined to end impunity against political assassinations,” he said. Ban said he appreciated the government’s payment of its share to the STL despite the deteriorating economic conditions in the country. The STL confirmed last month that it has received Lebanon’s share of the 2013 budget from the Lebanese government. The full sum of 29, 386, 609 euros, amounting to 49 per cent of the tribunal's budget, was transferred to the STL's bank account, it said. The trial of the alleged killers of Hariri will open on January 16. Four Hizbullah members - Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hussein Oneissi, and Assad Sabra - are to be tried in absentia for the suicide bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on the Beirut seafront on Feb. 2005. A fifth wanted suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in October after a pre-trial judge confirmed that he was accused of being involved in the murder. “I am deeply concerned about the escalation of violence witnessed in Lebanon in recent months,” the U.N. secretary-general told reporters in New York. He urged “all Lebanese parties to act with restraint and for the Lebanese people to come together to support the institution of the state.”He said it was “important” to form a new government, and warned that the presence of a resigned cabinet created a “political vacuum.” “I may have an opportunity of meeting either (caretaker) Prime Minister (Najib) Miqati or President (Michel) Suleiman this month and I will discuss this matter with them,” he said. The meeting will likely take place in Kuwait on the sidelines of the second donor conference for Syrian refugees.


STL Prosecutor Says New Details on Evidence to Emerge During Trial
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/Special Tribunal for Lebanon Prosecutor Norman Farrell has hinted that new sorts of evidence will appear during the trial of four Hizbullah members in ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination case next week. In an interview with An Nahar daily published on Saturday, Farrell said the details of the evidence will be made public during the opening of the trial next Thursday. “You will hear more details and you will know that the evidence of telecommunications is not circumstantial,” he said. Four Hizbullah members - Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra - will be tried in absentia for the suicide bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on the Beirut seafront on Feb. 2005. A fifth wanted suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, was indicted in October after a pre-trial judge confirmed that he was accused of being involved in the attack. The STL issued warrants against the four suspects in June 2011, and Interpol has issued a "red notice" for them but none has been arrested so far. The 2011 indictment against them said the case is built in large part on circumstantial evidence. It identified five networks of telephones used in the buildup to Hariri's assassination, and set out a detailed account of the days and hours leading to the detonation of 2.5 tons of explosives by a suicide bomber in a Mitsubishi van. Farrell rejected doubts raised on the evidence, saying there were repeated moves and monitoring by the same people for 50 days. The Prosecutor reiterated that the indictment of Hizbullah members did not mean that the party was accused of involvement in Hariri's assassination.

Suleiman Calls for Concessions as Saniora Meets him over New Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Saniora visited on Saturday President Michel Suleiman, who urged all parties to make concessions to form a government that wins parliament's vote of confidence. Saniora's press office said after his talks with Suleiman at Baabda Palace that the meeting was “serious” and “honest.” It will be followed by other meetings with the involved officials pending an appropriate decision, it said. The Baabda talks, which lasted an hour, came a day after reports said that the March 14 alliance had accepted a proposal to form a cabinet based on the 8-8-8 formula.
But a statement issued by Baabda Palace did not confirm the news, saying the president called for mutual concessions through a cabinet that wins the vote of confidence of the parliament and the trust of the Lebanese. Suleiman hoped that the political parties would reach an understanding on an all-embracing cabinet that prioritizes the daily and social lives of the people. Despite the optimism and reports that there was a 50 percent chance to form an all-embracing government, several hurdles still needed to be removed. Among them is the policy statement, which March 8 officials say should be left for discussion until after the formation of the cabinet. But March 14 officials, which al-Mustaqbal is part of, stress that the policy statement should be based on the Baabda Declaration and not the army-people-resistance formula as with previous governments.
The June 2012 Declaration includes a deal by rival officials to distance Lebanon from regional conflicts, particularly the war in Syria. The March 14 camp accuses Hizbullah of violating the Declaration by sending its members to flight alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops against the rebels seeking to topple him. Another major and new obstacle was the reported rejection of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea to participate in a cabinet in which Hizbullah is represented. Al-Mustaqbal movement leader Saad Hariri has reportedly held a one-hour telephone conversation with Geagea on Friday. The reports said, however, that the rival parties have agreed on the rotation of portfolios in the government in which the March 8 and 14 alliances and centrists would get eight ministers each. Local dailies said that Saniora is also expected to meet soon with Speaker Nabih Berri, who is a staunch supporter of an all-embracing cabinet despite a warning by Suleiman that he would form along with Premier-designate Tammam Salam a non partisan government by the end of the month if the rivals failed to strike a deal on the 8-8-8 formula

Geagea: No Final Stance Yet on Participation in All-Embracing Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said Saturday that the March 14 alliance hasn't yet decided whether it would participate in a 24-member national unity government. In remarks to al-Jadeed TV, Geagea said: “We haven't yet decided on our participation in an 8-8-8 cabinet.” There has been a flurry of political activity in the past days to win the approval of the March 14 alliance to participate in a cabinet in which it would get eight ministers similar to March 8 and centrists. But reports said Saturday that Geagea had rejected to have ministers in a government in which Hizbullah has representatives. His ally al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri held a one-hour telephone conversation with him on Friday. But Geagea told al-Jadeed that Hariri hasn't yet taken a final decision on the March 14 alliance's participation in the 8-8-8 cabinet and did not try to convince him to do so. “Consultations on the formation of the government are going,” the LF chief added. President Michel Suleiman said Friday that Hariri had sent “positive signals” on accepting the 8-8-8 formula. But he hinted that he would sign a decree to form a non partisan cabinet, which the March 8 alliance describes as a de facto government, before the end of the month if the rival parties failed to reach consensus on the new proposal.

U.S. Official Says No Ban on Hizbullah Participation in New Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/A U.S. official has said that Washington did not reject Hizbullah's participation in the new government if the approval of the cabinet line-up lied on the presence of its members in it. In remarks to As Safir daily published on Saturday, the official, who was not identified, said: “If the safe passage of the new cabinet in Lebanon and the closure of the caretaking era lied in Hizbullah's participation, then the U.S. does not mind to that.” “Lebanon's situation and its structure confirm without any doubt that there is no possibility to form a government without Hizbullah,” the official added. The official's remarks came amid a flurry of political activity to clinch a deal on an all-embracing cabinet, a Hizbullah request. A proposal for the March 8 and 14 alliances and centrists to get eight ministers each is under discussion. President Michel Suleiman and Premier-designate Tammam Salam have warned however that they would form a non partisan government soon if the rival parties failed to reach an agreement on the unity cabinet.

Mohammed al-Chaar's Death Spurs 'Selfie' Anti-Violence Protest

Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/It started with a "selfie": a self-portrait picture of 16-year-old Mohammed al-Chaar, who was killed in a Beirut car bomb, has sparked a mini political protest by the Lebanese people. In dozens of pictures posted on Facebook and Twitter, young Lebanese hold up signs with a personal message and the hashtag #notamartyr, protesting the cycle of political violence in their country.
The "Not A Martyr" campaign sprung up after Chaar was killed in a December 27 car bombing that targeted Mohammed Shatah a prominent March 14 official and al-Mustaqbal leader former PM Saad Hariri's adviser. Moments before the explosion in downtown Beirut, the teenager had posed for a selfie with his friends. A day later, he died of his injuries in hospital. Angered and appalled by his death, a group of young Lebanese started a protest page on Facebook. "We can no longer normalize the persistent violence. We can no longer desensitize ourselves to the constant horror of life in Lebanon," the page reads. "We are victims, not martyrs," adds the page, rejecting the notion that innocent bystanders be labeled in the same way as those who chose to die for a political or religious cause. "But we are not hopeless, and we have dreams for our country... Tell us what you want for your country. Tell us what you want to live for." More than 7,000 people have "liked" the page, and hundreds have posted their own selfies. "I want to live for my son, not die for my country," reads one message with a photo of a woman kissing her young son on the beach. "As a future doctor, I hope that none of my patients are victims of war, bombings, politics or religion," reads a hand-scrawled message. Dyala Badran, a 25-year-old Beirut resident, was among the first to respond to the campaign, posting a selfie on her Twitter account on December 30. She looks into the camera, clutching a small sheet of white paper with the message "I want to bring the murderers to justice" written in black, and the word justice underlined. "I posted probably one of the more dramatic ones," she told AFP, adding that she felt "a lot of anger" building in her since Chaar's death.
"I was very angry that he was being labeled a martyr, because in my eyes, he wasn't, he was a victim of murder," she said.
'It could have been any of us' Her message was also intended to challenge what she calls a culture of "normalization" in Lebanon, where a population that weathered a 15-year civil war and numerous car bombs and attacks has learned to go about life after each new incident. "We just get on with our lives. That's supposed to be resilience, but it's not, its normalizing all this really dangerous violence," Badran said.
"Why are we letting these murderers go about their lives without trying them?" Another participant, Carina Aoun, left Lebanon two years ago for Dubai, and posted a message expressing the frustration of many Lebanese who end up abroad. "I want to stop looking for a new place to call 'home,'" her message reads. "It's that feeling of leaving because something might happen in Lebanon... it's unstable," she told Agence France Presse from the Gulf emirate, where she works in advertising. "You'd love to go back, but you have to think about your life and what you hope to achieve." Aoun also objected to those terming Chaar a "martyr," and said his death hit home for many young Lebanese who imagined themselves in his place. "The youth in Lebanon feel with him because it could have been any of us." While the campaign has attracted support and attention, it comes at a time when Lebanon is deeply divided. The bomb that killed Chaar was the latest in a string of attacks, many thought to be linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria. Many Lebanese feel trapped by their country's political violence but others are directly involved in the long-running fighting in the northern city of Tripoli, or even heading across the border to battle for or against the Syrian regime. Badran acknowledged the campaign's prospect for short-term change are slim, but said she was heartened by it nonetheless. "If we keep talking about these issues, then maybe we'll remember to work on them," she said. "I think it's very important to just talk about these things, to not just move on as we usually do." Aoun also sounded a positive note. "It takes a long time for change to come about it, but the start is what matters and I think this is an excellent start." Source/Agence France Presse


Iran Commander: Hizbullah's Missile Power Improved
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/A senior commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards said Saturday that Hizbullah has dramatically improved its missile capabilities and can now pinpoint targets anywhere in Israel. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Israelis will see Hizbullah's new might should a war break out. He said slain Hizbullah commander Hassan al-Laqqis played a key role in boosting the group's military strength, although he did not elaborate. "He was a great, resourceful and very active Hizbullah commander whose works could be revealed should a Hizbullah-Israel war break out. He created great defense supplies," and was "one of Hizbullah's brains in the field of electronic war," Hajizadeh said. The comments were posted on the Guard's website, Al-Laqqis was assassinated last month near his residence in Hadath, in southern Beirut.
Top Revolutionary Guard commanders attended a service earlier this week in Tehran in commemoration of the slain commander. Hajizadeh didn't say how Hizbullah's missile capability had improved, but The Wall Street Journal has reported that the group has been moving parts of advanced guided-missile systems to Lebanon from bases where it had stored them inside Syria. U.S. officials told the Journal recently the weapons were transferred into

Lebanon from Syria piece-by-piece to evade Israeli air strikes.
Source/Associated Press..


EDL and Service Provider Workers Hold Sit-in
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/Contract workers of Electricite du Liban and service providers staged a sit-in at the state-run firm's headquarters in Beirut's Mar Mikhael area on Saturday to protest the dismissal of 62 KVA company workers. The contract workers committee issued a statement asking the management of KVA, a private company, to give the 62 individuals back their jobs. It warned that it would activate labor movements starting Saturday to “topple the plan of service providers.” The statement urged politicians to speed up the approval of an urgent draft-law on the employment of the contract workers. It also urged the management of SP -service providing companies - to “withdraw the intruding workers and mainly foreigners who have been trained by contract workers.” The committee issued another warning that it would take unprecedented escalatory measures.

General Security Arrests Robbery, Currency Counterfeit Gangs
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/General Security has arrested several Lebanese and Syrians for forming robbery and currency counterfeiting gangs in the eastern Bekaa valley, the state-run National News Agency said.
NNA said General Security members apprehended two Lebanese and a Syrian on suspicion of robbing homes and farms in and around the town of Bar Elias. The suspects have been referred to the judicial authorities, it said. The agency's officers have also arrested four Syrians in the town of Forzol for using counterfeit foreign currency and smuggling them to Syria, NNA said.
General Security launched an investigation to find out more details about their crime.

Danish Police: Lebanese Ship Likely to Have Dumped Cows
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 January 2014/Fourteen dead cows that washed up on the beaches of Denmark and Sweden were probably dumped overboard by the crew of a Lebanese ship after it encountered bad weather, Danish police said. "The police suspects that (the source is) a Lebanese ship that was transporting live cattle from a U.S. port to Europe," the South Zealand and Lolland-Falster Police said in a statement. "The ship ran into a storm in the Bay of Biscay, in which a number of cows died," it added. The ship's management may be prosecuted since dumping dead animals in the Baltic Sea is prohibited, it said. The puzzling appearance of nine cows on the beaches of south Sweden and five in Denmark has stunned the public, especially after it was revealed that some of them had been shot and had their ears mutilated. The animals, the first of which was found on December 31, also had their back legs tied together and their stomachs cut open. The ears had been cut to remove the earmarks identifying the animals, police said. "The reason the stomachs had been slit open was probably to ensure the animal sank, and the back legs were probably bound so that a crane could grab and hoist the cow overboard," it said. The Lebanese ship's crew had asked to unload the dead animals in a Russian port but were turned down, after which they most likely dumped them around 18 kilometers (11 miles) off the Danish island of Bornholm, police said. The unidentified Lebanese vessel was currently docked "at a port in the Baltic Sea," it said. Swedish police on Tuesday launched an investigation into the incidents. "I've worked in the police for 40 years and I have never dealt with such a crime," Scania police spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford said. Source/Agence France Presse.

Women In Lebanon: Break the taboo
January 11, 2014/The Daily Star /The violent attack by a husband against his expectant wife in Tripoli reported Friday is among the most horrific of crimes, as was the sexual assault on a Syrian refugee child, but it is essential that the media, and society as a whole, address and discuss such occurrences head on, so that the taboos of violence against women and rape are finally broken.
Until this happens, many other similar crimes will continue, but will not come to light, as they will not be reported to the police. One in three women around the world will be victim to physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, and this is unacceptable. Women should not have to live in fear of the men they live with, or strangers in the street. The rape of a wife by a husband is still not considered a crime in Lebanon. This must change. The creation this summer of a dedicated Internal Security Forces unit tasked with policing domestic violence crimes is an important step, as is the addition of women police officers into the force. Extra steps are needed, however, including the construction of safe spaces for women who are fleeing violence or rape. It is essential that psychological support be given to victims of such crimes, so that they no longer feel like victims, but survivors who can continue with their lives, stronger than ever. The Social Affairs Ministry has, and rightly so, vowed to provide psychological support to the victim of Friday’s sexual attack and her family.
Children, and perhaps especially those in the refugee community, are also vulnerable to such abuses of power, and we must all speak out on these crimes.

Ariel Sharon: From Warrior to Man of Peace at Last
David Pollock /Washington Institute

The Israeli leader showed himself capable of making bold policy reversals when he felt the country's welfare as a democratic Jewish state was at stake.
Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, at death's door today at age eighty-five after eight years in a stroke-induced coma, incarnated many of the contradictory dimensions of his entire country: courageous, and so unavoidably controversial; steadfast in his core convictions, yet flexible, impulsive, and even unpredictable in carrying them out; supremely self-confident, yet always acutely concerned about his country's security.
He rose to prominence, as the title of his 1989 autobiography succinctly notes, as a warrior: fighting with great ferocity and distinction in Israel's 1948 War of Independence, the 1956 Suez war, the 1967 Six Day War, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War; and then overseeing the 1982 Lebanon war, with a much murkier outcome, as minister of defense. But in his final years in political office as prime minister, even while ruthlessly and effectively striking back at Palestinian terrorists, Sharon demonstrated a very different side. He agreed to limit Israeli settlements in the West Bank, accepted the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and initiated the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The contradiction, or at least irony, was merely a superficial one; for only a man with Sharon's unrivaled reputation for toughness could have pulled off such switches so successfully. That was when and why President George W. Bush famously, and correctly, called Sharon a "man of peace."
Even much earlier, from his first days as a military commander, Sharon was usually determined to go his own way, at times regardless of higher authorities far from the field. The results were decidedly mixed. He first earned attention as the spearhead of Israel's battle against Palestinian infiltrators, leading the unit that launched the bloody reprisal raid on the West Bank village of Qibya in 1953. He then led a costly and unnecessary commando raid, far into enemy territory, on the Mitla Pass in Sinai during the 1956 war. Yet he also led a brilliant counterattack, again far behind Egyptian lines, across the Suez Canal in the 1973 war. Although little remembered today, Sharon's division actually advanced to within about sixty miles of Cairo to turn the tide of war and contribute to an honorable ceasefire -- and ultimately to Egyptian-Israeli peace.
Yet a decade later on Israel's northern front, as defense minister during the 1982 war against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon, Sharon ordered Israeli troops far beyond the initial forty-kilometer objective near the Litani River, all the way to the outskirts of Beirut. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, asked whether Sharon had misled him about the scope of this campaign, reportedly offered this laconic reply: "Well, Arik always tells me about his plans -- sometimes before, and sometimes after." The result was a brutal siege of Lebanon's capital city, which succeeded in expelling Arafat and the PLO but failed to crush their movement, or to reorder Lebanese politics to Israel's advantage. Quite the contrary; this Lebanon war left Israel with a new and more dangerous enemy: Hezbollah.
The Lebanon war also left a large stain on Sharon's reputation, because of the large death toll, culminating in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps around Beirut. All through his career, Sharon was tagged with leading military operations that inflicted civilian casualties, sometimes disproportionately. But this charge was misplaced. It was not Israelis, but Lebanese Phalangist militiamen, who murdered the Palestinians in those camps. An official Israeli commission of inquiry nevertheless found Sharon "indirectly responsible," and he was forced to resign as defense minister, although he remained in the cabinet a while longer. But Time magazine charged that Sharon had actually "encouraged" the massacre -- featuring a cover illustration of a Jewish star dripping with blood -- even though Christian guerrillas had actually committed the crime. Against all the odds, Sharon sued the American magazine for libel -- and won a symbolic judgment in his favor.
Sharon's last military venture was much more successful, with favorable political results that continue to shape the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to this very day. A man who began his political life as a protégé of David Ben-Gurion and then rose to influence under Begin finally achieved the pinnacle goal of sweeping Likud to electoral victory shortly after the failure in late 2000 of the second Camp David summit and the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising. New prime minister Sharon then conceived and led Operation Defensive Shield, a series of large-scale incursions to root out Palestinian terror cells from West Bank cities at the height of the second intifada, in 2002-2003. Once again there were wildly exaggerated media accounts of Israeli responsibility for massacres, most infamously in Jenin. The accusations were false; and despite all the naysayers inside and outside Israel, the military campaign largely succeeded.
This time Sharon followed up, not with a protracted reoccupation of Palestinian cities, but with the security barrier separating these cities from Israel and its own cities and settlements just to the west. The naysayers were proved wrong yet again; the barrier -- sometimes a wall, more often a fence -- has worked to stop terrorists. It literally reinforces the verbal calls to stop terrorism uttered by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who replaced Arafat even as the barrier was being built. And the dramatic decline in Palestinian terrorism produced by the barrier, IDF action, and cooperation with Palestinian security services is what has enabled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, currently promoted by Secretary of State John Kerry, to resume, long after Sharon himself was struck down by the stroke that forced him from the political scene.
On a personal level, I recall the first time I met Ariel Sharon, and the lasting impression it produced of a man who could dream large and act accordingly, triumph over great adversity, and most of all, change course courageously as new circumstances required. In 1985, I sat with Sharon at one of his legendary, lavish private dinners. To my astonishment, he maintained at length that one million or more Jewish olim (immigrants) could quickly be brought to Israel from the Soviet Union -- and this was still at the height of the Cold War, before Gorbachev, and long before the collapse of communism and its notorious walls. I mentioned this prediction to a much more senior colleague, who called it fascinating but wildly implausible. And yet, within less than a decade, Sharon's dream of mass Soviet Jewish immigration came true.
Even more impressive to me, however, is the epilogue to this little story. At the time he made that rash but prescient prediction, Sharon explicitly intended it to rationalize Israel's continued hold over the West Bank and Gaza. Soviet Jewish immigration, he meant, would largely "solve" Israel's "demographic problem" of including so many Arabs within its expanded borders. He was the one, after all, who had driven the creation of Likud in 1973, and invested so heavily in Israeli settlements across the 1967 Green Line.
Yet many years later, when Sharon realized that this part of his dream was unrealistic, he reversed course and decided that for Israel's own sake, he had to uproot the settlements in Gaza -- along with four tiny, isolated West Bank settlements -- as he had at Yamit in Sinai for the sake of peace with Egypt in 1982. And for the sake of peace with the Palestinians, or at least separation from them, he had to build a wall dividing Israel from the West Bank, and concentrate further settlement only in the sliver of land around Jerusalem and Israel's "narrow waist" near the Mediterranean coast -- precisely the area that Palestinians and other Arabs have finally agreed could be swapped to Israel as part of a final peace agreement with a Palestinian state.
In order to accomplish this historic reversal, Sharon had to make one last military-style surprise maneuver, but in the political arena. That was his bold decision to break from Likud and form his own party, Kadima, to oversee the planned withdrawal from Gaza and the further concessions to come. Critics of some of these steps, including myself, fault Sharon not for pulling out of Gaza but for doing so unilaterally instead of by agreement with the Palestinian Authority. This arguably gave Hamas an advantage there that it has retained ever since, albeit more precariously now. Perhaps Sharon did not fully realize, back in 2005, that he could try to make a deal with the newly installed and untested Abbas, rather than with the tested-and-proved-untrustworthy Arafat. For his part, Sharon argued that he could not let any Palestinian leader determine whether Israel would remain both Jewish and democratic.
That is an important detail, but a detail nonetheless. The larger point is that Sharon, and almost certainly only Sharon, could get Israel out of Gaza. The Israeli public trusted him to take care of all that, giving Kadima a solid vote of confidence in what turned out to be Sharon's last electoral campaign. It is a measure of Sharon's personal political power and credibility that, without him, Kadima has virtually disappeared from the Israeli political map.
And so, to the last, Sharon was decisive -- and therefore also divisive. With leadership, of course, comes controversy. Given all these seemingly contradictory twists and turns, what really is Sharon's legacy? His own career trajectory sums it up well: first be a fearsome warrior, in order to turn later to the work of peace. Because of this legacy, Israel today can contemplate its future more confidently, even as the region all around it implodes, or explodes. Whether that national confidence produces a new paragon of personal courage and political decisiveness in the spirit of Ariel Sharon is still an open question.
**David Pollock is the Kaufman Fellow at The Washington Institute and director of Fikra Forum.