Ariel Sharon Was Part Of Israel's Tragedy And Solution

Jan 12, 2014
Originally published on January 12, 2014 8:41 am

Transcript

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

The body of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is lying in state in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, today. He died yesterday after eight years in a coma. Ariel Sharon was a soldier-turned-politician who believed in hard-line military solutions, but who also looked beyond force to try to bring peace in Israel.

For more about the impact Sharon had on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, we got in touch with Ari Shavit. He's a senior correspondent at Haaretz newspaper in Israel. We started by talking about Sharon's impact on the modern day peace process.

ARI SHAVIT: Sharon had the ability because of his national authority, so to speak, because of his heroic task, he had the kind of authority that enabled him to defend the settlements without real bloodshed. I think that had we not lost him eight years ago, there's a good chance that he would've started dealing with the settlements in the West Bank, as well. And he was more able to do that than anyone else. And one of the troubling questions now is whether we have such a figure in the future.

And it's not clear where the younger Israeli politicians who don't have this kind of (unintelligible). They're not iconic, they are not part of Israel's long tail of establishment and existence; whether they will have the ability to do what Sharon could have done.

MARTIN: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has made the Israel-Palestine peace process a key issue for the Obama administration. And for him personally, he's been to Israel 10 times since becoming secretary of state, and he traveled there again this coming week. And yesterday, Kerry released a statement commemorating Sharon, saying, quote, "Ariel Sharon's journey was Israel's journey." What does it mean to you that he said those words in particular?

SHAVIT: Well, first of all, he's right. I agree totally with Secretary Kerry's statement that Sharon is in many ways, again, one of the last true iconic Israelis whose life story is our story. But I would like to touch about the irony behind Secretary Kerry's statement.

It is in many ways what Secretary Kerry's trying to do these days - and I wish him all the luck in the world - which is to bring total or comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians within a relatively short time. This is exactly what Sharon opposed. Even when he became a moderate, Sharon did not believe that there was an ability to solve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians.

So there is some - a degree of irony to the fact that Sharon dies just as Secretary Kerry reaches the peak of his attempt - of his benign and courageous attempt - to bring the peace that Sharon believed would never happen. So Kerry in this sense, Secretary Kerry and Ariel Sharon, actually their approaches to peace are exactly opposite. In many ways they contradicted each other.

MARTIN: Sharon, as we have discussed has, of course, had been on life-support for eight years. Still, is it possible that there will be some kind of psychological letting go of his perspective on the peace process now that he has died?

SHAVIT: That remains to be seen. That's an interesting question. He was a very chromatic, energetic person who influenced our lives in many ways. But in many ways, we said farewell to Sharon eight years ago.

MARTIN: Ari Shavit, he is an Israeli journalist and the author of the book "My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel." Thanks so much for talking with us.

SHAVIT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.