President Bush said Sharon "had a vision for peace." I suppose I have to agree, Sharon did have a vision. It looks like this.
Gore Vidal once wrote of Richard Nixon something to the effect that the reason only Nixon could go to China was largely because of people like...Nixon. Not just because Nixon had impeccable anti-Communist credentials, but because he personally had helped create a political atmosphere in which any peaceful overture to the Communists would be met with accusations of cowardice, treason and un-Americanism. I think this is true of Ariel Sharon in regard to the Palestinians and the Gaza withdrawal. It's to Sharon's credit that he recognized, at long last, that Israeli colonization of Gaza was impractical (I'm quite sure he never recognized it as immoral or unjust), but also unfortunate that the nature of Israeli politics is such that he was able to present himself as a "centrist" simply by agreeing to return a small portion of stolen land. There have already been more Israelis transferred into the West Bank than were removed from Gaza. Sharon insisted that he had "no partner for peace." In fact, he made absolutely sure of this.
Claims that Ariel Sharon made Israel safer are short-sighted. It is of course a good thing that terror attacks on Israelis have lessened over the last year (after a stunning increase near the beginning of his tenure), but I know of no one who would argue that Israelis enjoy genuine security. The wall that so many insist on crediting with preventing attacks has exacted a hugely disproportionate and morally indefensible toll on the Palestinians whose land it bisects, destroying the homes and farmland of thousands, and making normal economic and social life impossible for thousands more. The occupation which does so much to incite terrorism, as well as the building of settlements which the occupation facilitates, has continued, indeed has increased. As long as it does, and I know many Israelis understand this, it will always just be a matter of time before the other shoe drops. While I don't doubt that the Israeli people are resilient enough to deal with that sort of existence, I really don't think they should have to. But this is what Sharon left them.