By Stan Goodenough - Jerusalem Newswire - January 5th, 2006
As I write this, Ariel Sharon is lying
on an operating table in a Jerusalem hospital, fighting for his life
after suffering a massive stroke and intense cerebral hemorrhaging.
The news of his collapse shocked all
who heard about it, sending many people to prayer for his recovery
and well being.
Senior officials close to Sharon have
expressed pessimism about whether the prime minister will survive the
Speculation on all the Israeli and
major international news networks is rife, even frenzied, as to the
impact Sharon’s illness will have on the upcoming Israeli elections
in the short term and on the Israeli-Arab peace process in the long
Sharon is “one of the most important
prime ministers Israel has ever had,” according to Ha’aretz
reporter Ari Shavit.
He is “a crucial man at a crucial
time,” said CNN’s Jonathan Mann.
His being incapacitated at this time
“is sure to throw Israeli politics and Middle East peacemaking into
turmoil” predicted one of Mann’s colleagues.
“All the world’s leaders are
watching very closely what is happening in Jerusalem,” added the
network’s John Vause.
And as expressions of concern for
Sharon and for the peace process were being aired from the White
House to 10 Downing Street and from Paris to Beijing, expressions of
consternation and anxiety were being voiced by many “experts” at
the prospect of former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu being
returned to power in March.
Sky News’ Emma Hurd unleashed a
stream of negative opinion about Netanyahu, portraying him as an
enemy of the “peace process” and the last man anyone with hopes
for “progress” in the diplomatic process would want to see win.
Leftist Israeli journalist and senior
fellow at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies Hirsh Goodman
described Netanyahu as a man whose policies are diametrically opposed
to Sharon’s and under whose leadership the Road Map “peace”
plan would bog down.
Whatever those who influence opinion
and policy feel about Sharon and Netanyahu, the irrefutable fact is
that on Wednesday morning, according to polls published in the
Israeli press, Netanyahu and his Likud were considered almost certain
losers in the upcoming elections, while Sharon was believed to be a
shoe in; his party enjoying the prospect of a 42 seat majority and
being able to move forward largely unimpeded with Sharon’s
In the matter of just a few hours the
whole picture has been transformed, the predictable future has become
unpredictable. Sharon is on his way down. Netanyahu is on his way up.
In 1991, when this writer first came to
live and work in Jerusalem, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s greatest
warrior, was considered unelectable. The shadow of the misnamed
Lebanon War (actually Operation Peace for Galilee) and the massacres
carried out by Israel’s allies in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee
camps had made the then Defense Minister loathsome in the eyes of the
majority of the electorate, all but assuring that he would never be
able to run for the premiership.
Back then, and in the ensuing years as
the people of Israel were sucked into the Oslo Process, with the
resulting erosion of their national security and escalation in
terrorism, evangelical Christians in Israel and abroad prayed for the
“impossible” – that God would keep Sharon in good health and
place him at Israel’s helm.
Surely “the warrior” would shatter
the land-for-peace mirage and re-establish Israel’s security
parameters, extending Jewish rule deep into Israel’s biblical land?
The “impossible” did happen. Sharon
became prime minister in 2001, riding into office on a wave of votes
appealing for security after Oslo exploded in the 2ndintifada and funerals for Israeli victims of terrorism went
off the charts.
High hopes were pinned on Sharon. They
were dashed. Last year saw the “father of the Israeli settler
movement” abandon the Gaza Strip to the Arabs in what he explained
was the beginning of a process of “disengagement” from the
Sharon’s willingness to proceed with
the forced removal of his people from their homes in Gaza pushed
hundreds of thousands of Jews to prayer. Untold numbers of
Christians, too, went to prayer for divine intervention. God-fearing
men, women and children proclaimed their belief that the
“disengagement” would never take place; that the Almighty would
step in and perform a miracle.
The miracle never came, and just over
four months ago the world watched and applauded, while many believers
watched and wept, as Jewish communities were erased from the map of
Gaza, and thousands of Israelis became refugees in their own land at
the hands of their own government.
There is no doubt that the prayers and
tears reached to heaven, and were heard there. God, Whose ways are
not our ways, did not step in to prevent the expulsion. He has,
however, stepped in now.
As Prime Minister, Sharon was
frequently heard to express his belief that “no one” could tell
him how to run the country; “no one” could teach him what he
needed to know to provide security for his people; “no one” would
tell him what to do.
This very afternoon, just hours before
he was felled by his second stroke, Sharon declared his intention to
– after the elections he was so sure he would win – continue to
“disengage,” letting go great swathes of Judea and Samaria,
Israel’s biblical heartland, and pulling his nation behind a
“security wall” while enabling the State of Palestine to be
established on the other side.
If the medical and political experts
flooding the airwaves tonight are only partially correct in their
estimations, this is a policy Sharon will never be able to carry out.
He has been unseated; the reins of
power have been taken from his hands.
As a colleague told me in reaction this
evening: “It is hard to ignore the fact that after so many years of
being so strong, Sharon suddenly goes down just months after dividing
the land and promising to do so again.”
Who will replace him? This is the
question now uppermost in people’s minds. Could it be Binyamin
(Bibi) Netanyahu? What about Ehud Olmert; Tzipi Livni; Amir Peretz?
As the prophet Daniel wrote thousands
of years ago, there is One Who will decide:
He removes kings and raises up
kings; (Daniel 2:20-21)
“[T]he Most High rules in the
kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." (Daniel
Our faith is in Him, not in man. May
God have mercy and show compassion to Mr. Sharon, restoring him to
health and strength.
And may He raise up the man He purposes
to lead Israel into the critical and “uncharted” future.