It was, of course, simply an accident of timing — but a decidedly poignant one. On the very day that Ariel Sharon, a man who spent his life defending Israel from its enemies, passed away came the formal announcement of the deal under which sanctions will be eased against Iran.
In both his military and political careers, Ariel Sharon used strength as the platform on which security could be delivered. Militarily, that is obvious. Politically, had he not been removed from the scene by his stroke, the strength of his Kadima-led coalition could have transformed the scene, post-Gaza, in ways we will now never know.
The agreement with Iran championed by President Obama exemplifies the very opposite approach — caving in even while the mechanisms designed to build strength were working. Sanctions were having a real impact on Iran. It was not for the sheer pleasure of speaking to the West that its diplomats started to offer so-called engagement. But we — the West — capitulated more or less the instant that Iran showed another face and appeared to be willing to negotiate.
The point is not that Ariel Sharon would have been any more successful than Benjamin Netanyahu in preventing the US’s switch to appeasement (although he was notably expert as Prime Minister in playing his hand with the US). It is that he was a commanding figure whose stature afforded all sorts of options denied to lightweights.
Where are the equivalents today,on any side? President Obama is a lame duck with a vacuum instead of a foreign policy. President Rouhani is a confidence trickster who has spent a career duping the West. Mahmoud Abbas is a creature of the factions he has to balance, in office but not in power. It is almost unimaginable that these nonentities could change history for the better. As for Benjamin Netanyahu: not only do we not know if he is capable of making the Sharon-like leaps that may one day be necessary; given the above, it seems unlikely he will ever have the chance to show us.