12 January 2014
Statement by ECAJ President, Robert Goot AM SC on the passing of Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon, was like many great leaders, a
complex human being with a public life full of paradoxes.
He was a brilliant and creative military commander who was instrumental in Israel’s military victories over Egypt in 1967 and 1973, and an early and eager proponent of the Israeli settler movement.
Yet he was prepared to go further than any other Israeli Prime Minister, in taking risks to achieve peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. He endorsed Israel’s military withdrawal from and the dismantling of settlements in, Sinai, in order to achieve Israel’s ground-breaking peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. As Prime Minister in 2005, he courageously and controversially ordered Israel’s unilateral pull-out from Gaza and the evacuation of the Gaza settlements.
Arab officials routinely portrayed Sharon as a warmonger, but this was largely for public consumption. Privately, there was no Israeli leader they feared and respected more than Sharon. They understood that Sharon was perhaps the only leader in the Middle East who could change reality and not merely adapt to it.
The Kahan Inquiry into Israel’s military intervention in Lebanon in 1982 held Sharon ‘indirectly responsible’ for the killing of Palestinian residents in Sabra and Shatila by Christian militia men, but any final judgement must await the release of crucial documents which remain classified.
Sharon was also wrongly accused of starting the second Intifada in September 2000 merely because he visited the Temple Mount, a site sacred to Jews as well as Muslims. In truth however, multiple Palestinian sources have since confirmed that PLO leader Yasser Arafat, in clear violation of the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, had issued orders two months before Sharon’s visit, for a return to violence and the commencement of another intifada.
History’s verdict will undoubtedly be much fairer and more favourable to Sharon after he is gone, than were his critics while he was alive.”