World Leaders Bid Farewell to Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Israeli officials and international dignitaries bid farewell at a state ceremony Monday to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died at the age of 85 on Saturday. Sharon had been in a coma since suffering from a stroke in 2006. He was one of Israel’s greatest, but most controversial, figures. A longtime proponent of ...

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli officials and international dignitaries bid farewell at a state ceremony Monday to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died at the age of 85 on Saturday. Sharon had been in a coma since suffering from a stroke in 2006. He was one of Israel's greatest, but most controversial, figures. A longtime proponent of Jewish settlements on lands won in war, Sharon surprisingly led a historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. He was revered as an Israeli statesman, but widely hated within the Arab World. No leaders from Arab countries, Africa, or Latin America attended Monday's ceremony. At the memorial, Israeli President Shimon Peres called Sharon "a military legend" who "defended this land like a lion." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a political adversary to Sharon, noted, "I did not always agree with Arik, nor did he always agree with me," but he referred to him as "one of the greatest military commanders the Jewish people have had." U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Sharon "a complex man" whose "actions earned him controversy and even condemnation" but said that "like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him." Later, at a service near the Negev city of Sderot, close to the Gaza Strip, Sharon was buried beside his wife, Lilly, at his family ranch. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip on Monday, but neither reached Israel and there were no injuries reported.

Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed cease-fire zones for Syria during talks in Paris Monday. According to Kerry, there was a possibility of trying to encourage a localized cease-fire in the northern city of Aleppo. Additionally, Lavrov mentioned that the Syrian government had indicated it might allow access for humanitarian aid to areas under siege, such as East Ghouta. U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos said she had spoken to the government to obtain humanitarian access to such communities that have been cut off due to fighting, some for over a year.  Lavrov additionally stated that Iran and Saudi Arabia should participate in the upcoming peace conference set for January 22 in Switzerland. Kerry said Iran would be "welcome" if it agrees to President Bashar al-Assad's transition from power. At a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan issued a joint statement urging the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to attend the peace talks. Kerry said, "I am confident personally that the Syrian opposition will come to Geneva," after meeting with SNC leader Ahmad Jarba. The coalition said it would decide on its participation on January 17.

Israeli officials and international dignitaries bid farewell at a state ceremony Monday to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who died at the age of 85 on Saturday. Sharon had been in a coma since suffering from a stroke in 2006. He was one of Israel’s greatest, but most controversial, figures. A longtime proponent of Jewish settlements on lands won in war, Sharon surprisingly led a historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. He was revered as an Israeli statesman, but widely hated within the Arab World. No leaders from Arab countries, Africa, or Latin America attended Monday’s ceremony. At the memorial, Israeli President Shimon Peres called Sharon "a military legend" who "defended this land like a lion." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a political adversary to Sharon, noted, "I did not always agree with Arik, nor did he always agree with me," but he referred to him as "one of the greatest military commanders the Jewish people have had." U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Sharon "a complex man" whose "actions earned him controversy and even condemnation" but said that "like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him." Later, at a service near the Negev city of Sderot, close to the Gaza Strip, Sharon was buried beside his wife, Lilly, at his family ranch. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip on Monday, but neither reached Israel and there were no injuries reported.

Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed cease-fire zones for Syria during talks in Paris Monday. According to Kerry, there was a possibility of trying to encourage a localized cease-fire in the northern city of Aleppo. Additionally, Lavrov mentioned that the Syrian government had indicated it might allow access for humanitarian aid to areas under siege, such as East Ghouta. U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos said she had spoken to the government to obtain humanitarian access to such communities that have been cut off due to fighting, some for over a year.  Lavrov additionally stated that Iran and Saudi Arabia should participate in the upcoming peace conference set for January 22 in Switzerland. Kerry said Iran would be "welcome" if it agrees to President Bashar al-Assad’s transition from power. At a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Paris, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan issued a joint statement urging the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to attend the peace talks. Kerry said, "I am confident personally that the Syrian opposition will come to Geneva," after meeting with SNC leader Ahmad Jarba. The coalition said it would decide on its participation on January 17.

Headlines

  • The sixth month interim deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program will go into effect on January 20 with negotiations between Tehran and six world powers likely to resume in February.
  • Libya’s deputy industry minister, Hassan al-Droui, was shot and killed Saturday in the first assassination of a senior official in the country since the ouster of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi.
  • The Yemeni government has deployed troops to the northern province of Saada to monitor a cease-fire between Shiite Houthis and Sunni Salafis after an estimated 210 people have been killed in over two months of fighting.
  • Turkey’s ruling AK Party is seeking to increase control over the Internet in a move seen as part of a trend to concentrate power in response to a corruption investigation.

Arguments and Analysis

The Sharon Doctrine: The Mixed Legacy of an Israeli Unilateralist‘ (Hussein Ibish, Foreign Affairs)

"Sharon was not the Israeli leader who would make a final peace agreement with the Palestinians. But he did take a major step, the implications of which Palestinians and Israelis alike cannot underestimate: he evacuated settlements in both Gaza and the northern West Bank. Sharon did not do this in the interests of peace. He did it as an Israeli national imperative, and a way to resolve a strategic liability. Sharon’s action is sometimes erroneously described as a ‘withdrawal’ from Gaza, but Sharon more accurately termed it a ‘unilateral redeployment.’ In other words, Sharon’s shift was not one towards an agreement with the Palestinians, but rather towards increased Israeli unilateralism. His action was entirely pursuant to Israeli interests and conducted without any agreement on the Palestinian side.

In his unexpected action, Sharon faced and overcame substantial resistance from the settlement movement in Israel. By explaining why the evacuation was a strategic and military necessity, he ultimately mobilized the support of a large Israeli majority. Indeed, the experience led him to leave the Likud and form a new center-right party, Kadima, shortly before the stroke that incapacitated him. Several Israeli journalists have suggested that Sharon was anticipating repeating a larger withdrawal in the West Bank should he become Kadima’s first prime minister.

There are two crucial lessons to be drawn from Sharon’s last major action and final legacy, one positive, the other negative. On the positive side, Sharon demonstrated that settlements can, in fact, be evacuated. Because of his actions, it is no longer even possible to ask whether the Israeli government is capable of dismantling settlements. The questions are simply when and where they will choose to do so. And that means that none of the existing settlements and other demographic, infrastructural, topographic, or administrative changes Israel enforces in the occupied territories should be regarded as irreversible. The implications of this for the prospects of a two-state solution are profound."

The jihadists may have gone too far‘ (The Economist)

"Weakened central control in Syria and Iraq has opened space for ISIS’s brand of extremism, and the sectarian politics of both Mr Maliki and Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime have prompted some hapless Sunnis to embrace the group. And yet few actually agree with its radical ideas. Unlike other Syrian rebels, ISIS had its sights set not on capturing the capital, Damascus, but on creating its own Islamic state in the area between eastern Syria and north and western Iraq.

ISIS’s methods, as well as its reliance on foreign fighters, are also unpopular. Even al-Qaeda’s chief, Ayman Zawahiri, has criticised ISIS’s indiscriminate attacks against Shias as well as moderate Sunnis. Its imprisonment of scores of aid workers and journalists, as well as Syrian activists and minority Kurds, Christians and Alawites, has tarnished the rebel movement as a whole, frightening off the foreign press and would-be providers of aid, especially from Western countries. The hostages may be held as an insurance policy against imagined future Western drone strikes or other military actions. But many Syrians unsurprisingly regard the tactic as evidence that ISIS, despite its fighting prowess, has thereby bolstered the regime, if it is not actively colluding with it."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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