Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Believer in Realpolitik

Ariel Sharon
1928-2014
Former Prime Minister of Israel
Survived by hopes of a peaceful and safe Jewish Homeland 

In the history of mankind, there have been a handful of people who shaped the future of nations. And in the Middle East, Ariel Sharon stands tall as one of the most important people to have transformed the region. Soldier, politician, leader - he has defined the history of the Jewish State through its ups and downs since the partition of Palestine. A divisive figure certainly, but a firm believer in realpolitik. Born in the British territory of Palestine, he grew up hearing of the horrors of the holocaust in Europe and was firmly convinced on the need of an exclusive homeland for the Jews, a people who have been persecuted for over a millennium. And when the time came to create such a homeland, he stood steadfast. 

Of course, his legacy carries a mixed burden. Reviled by the Palestinians for his brutal tactics to put down their uprisings, including the low-point of his career, the "48 hour" invasion of Lebanon, he is loved by Israelis as the hero who tripled the Jewish state's territory in one fell swoop and brought Palestinian guerrillas to their knees, never dithering from using the IDF to defend Israel's interests. But then again, he was not a warmonger - far from it. He was a realist. His shocking reversal of support for Israeli settlements and withdrawal of settlers from Palestinian territories can be attributed to his realization that the world had changed from the 1960s and a Palestinian state next to Israel is absolutely inevitable. In that, he sought to place Israel at the very forefront, believing that if that tide of history is unstoppable, you must not only ride it but lead it or else be crushed by it. It was this far-reaching understanding that possibly saved Israel much horrors after the death of Yasser Arafat. 

For India, Sharon was a true friend, being the first Israeli PM to visit India when Vajpayee's NDA Government was in power in 2003. In the Kargil War, when India badly needed military assistance to defend its territory in Kashmir, and when every other nation in the world refused to 'interfere,' it was Israel that came to our rescue, providing us with crucial equipment and satellite images, without which the Kashmir Valley would have been blocked off from Indian access forever. He consolidated the gains of that experience to raise ties to the strategic level of today. If it is true that a friend in need is a friend indeed, then Israel was one of India's greatest friends, an ally who saved our territory and announced to the world that Indo-Israel ties would not be held hostage to the whims and fancies of Arab dictatorships. Despite the leftist propaganda against Israel that has grabbed eyeballs during the UPA years, it is his memory that reminds us of what a strong and determined government can achieve - and what a weak one cannot. 

Had a man such as Sharon been born in India, the subcontinent would have perhaps been very different. If the Indian Middle Class would study history, it would come to respect him. But, in the eight years of his coma, the world has changed and now, after his death, it continues to change. 

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