For good or for evil? For better or for worse? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain - this man impacted the World more than anyone else in the year 2005.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon first came to power as a hardliner. He had built a reputation as an unabashed right-winger and defender of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. He seemed to be just the type of take-no-prisoners leader that Israel needed at the height of the intafada in 2001. The Palestinians had such a distaste for Sharon that they claimed that the reason for the intafada was that Sharon had been allowed to visit the Temple Mount (which the Palestinians claim as their territory, meaning that the visit was an "incursion"). This was the man that Israelis elected in 2001, but he is nowhere to be found in 2005.
The Sharon of today is responsible for the elimination of Jewish settlements in Gaza, not their defense. Who can forget the gut-wrenching images of Israeli settlers barricaded inside their synagogues in the vain hope that that the Army would not storm houses of God. Who could not pity the soldiers who were forced to storm the synagogues and drag their countrymen away form their homes. The one image that is personally seared into my memory is a news photo depicting three female members of the Israeli Defense Force crying their eyes out.
Will the Gaza pullout bring peace to Israel, nobody knows (if you want my personal opinion, look through my archives). However, whether good or bad, Sharon's decision to unilaterally pull Jewish settlers out of Gaza was one of the gutsiest move that I have ever seen a politician make. He was willing to alienate many people in his country (not to mention his political party) to do what he thought was necessary to bring peace. So, while his opinions may have changed, he is still the same take-no-prisoners, "my way or the highway" kindred spirit that he has always been.
The political divisions created by the pullout have caused a devastating divide in the Likud Party, as many members were furious at Sharon for his about-face concerning settlements. So deep was the divide that Sharon decided that he could not govern at the head of such a quarrelsome faction. Hence, he bolted the party that he helped create and founded a new centrist party called Kadima. Polls indicate that Kadima will storm to victory in next year's election, trampling Likud in the process. Many speculate that this new party could fall apart when Sharon steps down as leader. However, if the party is able to function without Sharon, then it will change the face of Israeli politics forever. Likud, and everything it stands for (conservatism, support for settlements, not giving Palestinian terrorists and inch), could be relegated to the fringe of the political spectrum. If this happens, Israel will no longer have a viable conservative party, and the only choice that the people will have will be between moderate leftism (Kadima) and radical leftism (Labor Party). This sea change in political alignment could eventually have more of an effect on the future of the Middle East then the Gaza pullout.
The Ariel Sharon that the World will remember is not the man who once fought tooth and nail to ensure that Jewish settlements in Gaza remained in place. Instead, he will be remembered as the man who evicted every single Israeli settler from their homes in the Gaza Strip. He will not be remembered for helping create the Likud Party, but for single-handedly tearing it apart. These developments could be positive or negative, but they are earth-shattering either way.
Let me be blunt. I disagree with Mr. Sharon, I am horrified and repulsed by his decisions concerning Gaza and Likud, and I think that this situation will eventually blow up in his (and Israel's) face. That said, I promised to pull no punches and give the title of "Person of the Year" to the man or woman who I thought had the greatest impact on the World, regardless of my personal opinion of them. Ariel Sharon may have made the biggest step towards peace in the Middle East since the conflict began - and if he didn't, he still changed Israel (and the world) forever.
Right or wrong, good or bad, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon turned the World upside-down in 2005. As such, he has more than earned the right to be ConservaGlobe's inaugural Person of the Year!Tags: Person of the Year, Sharon, Ariel Sharon, Israel, Middle East, News, Politics, Current Affairs, Current Events, current-events