Israel without Ariel Sharon seemed unthinkable until last week when the 77-year-old Prime Minister suffered a massive stroke. Now Israelis are trying to come to grips with their loss. Sharon has been involved in every military campaign since the founding of the Israeli State in 1948. He also involved himself in politics from the very beginning.
While highly controversial, and either loved or hated by the voters in Israel, he is the one political figure who was able to form a consensus in the country regarding the Palestinians. Basically he decided that previous agreements have not worked. So the only way for Israel to survive was unilaterally to withdraw from Gaza and some of the West Bank. He then erected the controversial fence which separated Israel and what was supposed to become the Palestinian State.
Since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza there has been utter chaos in that territory. To demonstrate what the Israelis have to deal with, some Palestinians suggested that Sharon’s massive stroke was “a gift from God.” Children handed out candy to schoolmates in celebration of Sharon’s stroke.
Of course, Palestinians weren’t alone in that point of view. Marion Gordon “Pat” Robertson, former Republican Presidential candidate and host of the 700 Club TV program on the ABC Family Channel, said that God was responsible for Sharon’s stroke because Sharon had divided His land. “God says this is mine,” Robertson said. Sharon, Robertson said, “was dividing my land “ and he went on to say “I would say woe to any Prime Minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the United Nations or the United States of America.” Robertson cited the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, a Labor Prime Minister who also wanted to achieve peace by giving land to the Palestinians.
While Abe Foxman and his Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups were outraged by Robertson’s stand, he was reflecting the views of many who take the Bible literally and who thus believe that the Israel in the New Testament refers to the actual Republic of Israel. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believe that the Israel of the New Testament refers to the Christian Church. That difference in Biblical interpretation has caused Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians to be among Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States. Catholic and Eastern Orthodox have approached the question of Israel in geo- political terms and to the extent they have been supportive it is because of that consideration rather than because of an alleged Biblical imperative.