World View: Israel's Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Dies

World View: Israel's Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Dies

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon dies
  • France’s Francois Hollande’s affair throws U.S. visit into doubt

Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon dies

Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon died Saturday after eight years in a coma caused by a massive stroke in January 2006. Sharon’sdeath is, perhaps surprisingly, a major international news story, eventhough he hasn’t opened his eyes or spoken a word in eight years.

Sharon is considered by many to be Israel’s greatest national hero.Starting with the 1948 war with Israel’s Arab neighbors, he fought for Israel in one warafter another, often as commander. Many people believe that Israelowes its continued existence to the life of Sharon.

From the Arab point of view, Sharon’s victories in all those wars wereactually war crimes by which thousands of Palestinian civilians werekilled with no justification. The greatest event in this categoryoccurred in 1982 when Christian Arab forces, allied with Sharon’sIsraeli army, massacred and butchered hundreds or perhaps thousands ofPalestinian refugees in camps in Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon. Sharonpersonally had nothing to do with the attack, but many, including someIsraelis, believe that it was a war crime for Sharon not to doanything to stop it when he allegedly knew that it was in progress.

As Prime Minister in the early 2000s, Sharon began to transform from awarrior to a statesman. He initiated the building of the barriersecurity fence separating Israel from Arab territory. After the deathof Yasser Arafat in November 2004, Sharon brought about thewithdrawal of all Israeli forces and settlements in the Gaza Strip, ina move for peace in cooperation with then President George Bush’s May2003 “Mideast Roadmap to Peace.”

When Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in November 2004, there was a widespread belief thateverything in the Mideast would change. It had been thought thatthere was no Mideast peace agreement because Arafat did everything inhis power to stop it, and that with him gone, successful peace talkswould go ahead. However, as I’ve written many times, it’s a basicprinciple of Generational Dynamics that great events are determined bymasses of people, generations of people, and that politicians arelargely irrelevant. The death of Arafat showed that to be true.Things not only didn’t get better, they continued to get worse. InGaza, for example, it had been hoped that the Palestinian residentswould create a sound economy and peaceful democracy, but instead, thePalestinian residents spent most of 2005 trashing Gaza and using itas a base for terrorist attacks against Israel.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Ariel Sharon andYasser Arafat were very similar men. They were born one year apart(1928 and 1929, respectively), and they both survived the bloody,genocidal war between Arabs and Jews that followed the partitioning ofPalestine and the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Each hadfought in Arab vs. Israeli wars after that, was viewed by his supportersas heroes, and by his enemies as a terrorist.

However, what always united Sharon and Arafat was that, like allsurvivors of generational crisis wars, they were determined to makesure that no such war happens again to their children andgrandchildren. So Arafat may have been a terrorist, and he may have approved suicide bombings that killed Jewish children, but heundoubtedly saw it as the lesser of two evils. Sharon and Arafatshared a view that the greatest evil of all would be to unleash a newgenocidal war, one that would kill many more Jewish and Arab childrenthan suicide bombings do. However, their deaths bring exactly that kind of war closer. Jerusalem Post and AP

France’s Francois Hollande’s affair throws U.S. visit into doubt

A gossip magazine has reported that France’s Socialist PresidentFrançois Hollande has been riding across Paris each evening on theback of a scooter, arriving at the home of his mistress, Frenchactress Julie Gayet. He spends the night there, according to thereports, leaving his officially recognized girlfriend, ValerieTrierweiler, back at the Elysee palace where they live together. Anoutraged Hollande has demanded that his private life be kept private,and he’s even threatened to sue the gossip magazine. However, hedidn’t deny the facts in the story.

Before Trierweiler, Hollande’s previous girlfriend of 30 years andmother of his four children was Segolene Royal. Trierweiler and Royalgot into a tweeting spat over Hollande just last year. All this isquite amusing, but it’s bad news for Hollande, as his approval ratingis now just 15%, the lowest for any president in the past 50 years.

Trierweiler is expected to accompany Hollande on a state visit to theUnited States next month. That should keep Hollande’s latest loveaffair in the news for some time to come. BBC

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