THE BLOG

Sharon: Defined in Five Key Punches

14/01/2014 10:56 GMT | Updated 15/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Even after eight years in a coma, Ariel Sharon's heartbeat pulsed a discernible and steady rhythm through Israeli politics.

Machines may have kept the former leader alive but it was very much the thought and spirit of people that prolonged his relevance. His death will not now lift that powerful shadow.

A deeply divisive character, Sharon's critics and fans alike have always had plenty of ammunition at hand to justify their position.

Ariel was brave, brave to a fault. If the greatest human challenge is to truly face our own individual failings then the old warhorse is a victor. He faced the cold truths of his bloodied failings and pivoted direction. His own course and the course of history switched. Damage had already been done but much was averted.

He made good and bad decisions but every man deserves to walk a path to redemption should they choose to take it. We should acknowledge that Sharon attempted that definitive journey.

'The gambler' had a spine of steel and his like will not be seen again in the near future.

Five key punches define the man:

1) Gaza

I've already implied reference to the infamous withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. This strategic U-turn, pulling out of the territory after 38 years was brave, bold and fraught with risk. Sharon, previously the most unlikely man to ever dare retreat from anything, was also the only man who was brave enough to pull off that move.

I believe that those who suggest that Gaza was forsaken to strengthen hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem are naive as to how the true balances fell at that time. We must remember, Sharon's manoeuvre had him dump 9,000 Israelis from their homes overnight.

2) US control

It can be argued that Sharon's control of US relations was one of his boldest and greatest achievements.

One thing remained consistent over the years, Sharon knew how to manipulate the superpower to his advantage. He had a bold force that allowed his various misdemeanours to be overlooked in the hue of intimate personal relations. Sharon was masterful at squeezing inherent sympathy from US neo-conservatives.

The father to son Bush relations are a memorable example of Sharon's emotive control. Arguably, he played a role in Bush losing the '92 US elections (withholding loan guarantees to Israel did Bush Sr. no favours). Fast forward some years and Bush Jr. was declaring to the world that they should be "grateful" to his great friend Sharon. The pair shared a close unity. The US hand of friendship was more powerful than any missile Israel held. Sharon never forgot to give that fact due consideration.

3) Suez Canal crossing

A military career displaying various platform moments of courage throws up a wealth of suggestions. I would choose his role in the 1973 Mideast war. Sharon led 27,000 men across Egypt's Suez Canal. It was an extraordinary move and turned the conflict in an instant. Before that episode, the army looked despondent.

Sharon's step out of retirement and back into the circus ring produced results which shocked all.

4) Sabra and Shatila massacre

The Sabra and Shatila massacre may well be remembered as the darkest stain on Sharon's legacy. With trademark ruthless action Sharon oversaw Israeli involvement in PLO fighters being 'flushed out' of refugee camps. The mechanisms are too complex to fully examine here - Sharon fought accusations against his actions until the very end - but everyone acknowledges that major mistakes were made. Thousands of people paid the price.

5) Kadima

The creation of a political party is a remarkable achievement under any circumstances. Kadima was a truly brave and bold transition for Sharon. In typical style it became the largest outfit in the Knesset after the 2006 elections, just four months after the creation of the party. Again, Sharon risked his chess pieces and demonstrated that fortune favoured the brave. There is much to evaluate during that period but one fact remains clear, the creation of the party was a bold move handled decisively.

Sharon was neither the devil nor the saviour depicted by opposing sides. He was brave, stubborn, frightening and extraordinary. In a world where modern politicians lack loyalty and backbone, he will leave a gap. What now for the region? Netanyahu is yet to prove himself a visionary.

Israel has lost an irreplaceable fighter. Whether that means more lives will now be saved or lost, only time will tell.