Sharon’s Absence Means Vital Changes

Just as the constant battle between Israelis and Palestinians is gradually improving, the one man who protected his people with all his power, while balancing international affairs, is slowly drifting away from us. Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister since 2001, suffered two strokes within days of each other in mid-December, ultimately ending his reign of power and nearly his life.
While Sharon’s first stroke was medically determined to not leave any severe brain damage, his second stroke a few days later currently jeopardizes his chance at life again. After three cerebral operations on Jan. 6 that took nearly 15 hours in all, doctors believe that the hemorrhage in his brain has finally stopped. For a chance to survive, medical experts have rested Sharon in an anesthesia-induced coma, allowing the brain swelling and hemorrhage to alleviate.
According to medical experts, cerebral bleeding in a hemorrhagic stroke is uncommon, and could have been caused by the coagulant drugs he was taking at the time, which helped control blood clotting.
Sharon’s contribution to Israel’s success and prosperity is endless. Serving in Israel’s Defense Forces for more than 25 years, he led his people in the Yom Kippur War, which finally led to peace between Israel and Egypt. In 1981, he was then appointed as defense minister, followed by his 2001 inauguration as Israel’s prime minister.
Yet Sharon continues to be remembered for what he has done for the Israeli people, voicing their anger and pain into peace agreements that would one day find their place in Israel. After years of bloodshed and terror, the prime minister devised a plan that would give security to his people while at the same time improve the lifestyle of Palestinians.
Known as the disengagement plan, nearly 10,000 Israeli troops and families evacuated the Gaza Strip in August 2005, ending Israel’s 38-year control in the area. Although some Israeli political parties disagreed with the prime minister’s plan, it was the best approach politically for Israel, since it showed that they are willing to listen to Palistinian demands in hopes to find a resolution.
Sharon’s ability to reinvent himself and Israeli political policy is crucial to the survival of the state, which is every Israeli’s ultimate goal. His dedication to the right-wing Likud party waned due to their inflexibility, causing him to form a new centrist party. The development of his new party was clearly the right choice, for the Likud party expected the Palestinians to give up much more than they themselves were willing to compromise. Because he enjoys such loyalty among many Israelis, Sharon was brilliantly able to give his people a different, better choice as to how to deal with the conflict, and refused to wait for others to define Israeli policy in a way that has proved to fail for decades. Named after the Hebrew word for ‘forward,’ Kadima, Sharon guided his new policy around the United States strategy for peace.
With public opinion polls in favor of the Kadima party and elections around the corner, the appointment of another party, particularly the Likud, would ruin all that Sharon has worked for.
As Sharon’s medical condition remains variable, an even greater concern rests upon the future of Israel’s peace efforts. On Jan. 5, the prime ministerial duties were turned over temporarily to Ehud Olmert, the deputy prime minister as well as Sharon’s right-hand man. For over five decades, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been generally much publicized uncompromising leaders, unwilling to agree on any resolution. After Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, a more moderate leader was put in power, Mahmoud Abbas, whose plan was for negotiation with Israel.
Now, with the resignation of Sharon, elections are near as Israel awaits to see their next leader. If Olmert can convince his people that he will carry on Sharon’s strategy for Israel, he will be the most likely of them all to win.
As a result, the induction of two moderate leaders would be an advantage to the peace process, in hopes to divide Israel fairly and equally between both religions and one day unify social networks between them once again.

Jonahtan Shalom is a second-year biological sciences major.