Sharon's contribution to the future of Israel and the Palestinians provides Blumenthal with a metaphorical image he could not resist:
"Now that Sharon's unilateral vision appears to have been consolidated, Israel's government must perpetually manage an occupation it has no intention of ending. It has no clear strategy to achieve international legitimacy and no endgame. Its direct line to Washington has become a life-support system for the status quo. Like Sharon, who spent his last years in a comatose state without any hope of regaining consciousness, Israel is only buying time."
History will not recall Sharon with favor. Mainstream media feels compelled to refer to his career as "controversial," a term even Joe Biden felt he had to reference in his otherwise laudatory funeral remarks. "Controversial" is media code word for "we know there is bad stuff out there but you did not hear it here."
Juan Cole gives body to "controversial" when in his Informed Comment blog, he offers "Top Ten Ways Ariel Sharon Ruined Israel and the Middle East." Number six is probably Sharon's darkest career hour:
"Sharon crafted the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It was intended to allow him to put Christian allies of Israel in power in Lebanon. Likewise, he wanted to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization, then headquartered in Beirut.
"The invasion, which had no basis in international law, resulted in the indiscriminate shelling of Beirut and the loss of some 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian lives. ... During that war, Sharon bore responsibility for the massacre of women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the Israeli occupation. Remember that these Palestinians were refugees from Sharon and his fellow Israeli hawks in the 1948 war, when some 720,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and land and made penniless refugees.
"Now he had come after them and empowered far right-wing Christian militiamen, who massacred them. Sharon hated the Palestinians because they refused to evaporate, and stood as a reproach to his ideology of Israelis' birthright to Palestinian land."
Raja Shehadeh (below) a Palestinian lawyer, novelist and political activist who lives in Ramallah, continues the story in a posting he wrote for The New Yorker:
"In 1982, after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the massacre at Sabra and Shatila, the largest protest in the history of Israel came out against Sharon. A commission of inquiry headed by the Chief Justice of Israel's Supreme Court, Yitzhak Kahan, determined that Defense Minister Sharon was negligent, and should have foreseen that permitting Lebanese Phalangist forces to enter the Palestinian camps carried the potential for catastrophe. Sharon was forced to resign."
This could have been the end of his political career. It was not. Shehadeh continues:
"The man did not have a social vision for his country; economics bored him. He must have known that he would only get a second chance when the drums of war began to beat again. It is not surprising, then, that when the Oslo Accords were concluded -- promising peace at the end of an interim period -- Sharon provocatively waged a fierce battle against the agreement.
"His return to power came after he deliberately walked with a large contingent of armed guards into the Dome of the Rock compound in September 2000, helping to ignite the second Palestinian Intifada."
In March, 2001, Sharon was elected prime minister, the position he held until he suffered his stroke in January, 2006, ending a long military/political journey which, except for the occasional downturn, like Sabra and Shatila, continued from early military success to the prime minister's post.
In 1955, he was photographed (above, left) with Moshe Dayan, then the IDF Chief of Staff and later Israeli Defense Minister and Foreign Minister.