We and the world have been waiting all week and now we have seen it with our own eyes. Just over an hour ago Ariel Sharon completed his UN speech to the nations of the world. Exact quotes (and some initial commentary) on his speech I will leave you to read here and here.
There was not too much to surprise us or anyone for that matter. True, some Moslem and European leaders may have been suitably warmed by his openness to regretting Israeli control over another people and his offer of a Palestinian state.
Sharon, once doubted the world over, can now stand and say these things because he has in fact done what no Israeli leader has had the strength (nor chutzpah!) to do before him. That is, give over land to (well almost) full Palestinian control. No one can now claim that he talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. Over the last month, he has walked a mile and he may yet walk the unforgiving and lonely Israeli plank as a result.
I was not surprised by his strong words about Jerusalem, its eternal unity as the capital of Israel and the Prime Minister's backing of the security fence. Israel's widely respected Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court of Justice) may well have given him extra reason to stand proud as Israel's leader today. First, the bench of nine ruled that the decision of the International Court of Justice in the Hague is not binding on Israel and that it was an emotional decision that ignored Israel's security needs almost completely.
Second, the court declared that Israel has the right to build the fence and do so over the green line should that be necessary. But lastly and possibly most strikingly, and equally importantly, the decision ordered some revision and rerouting of the fence in the northern West Bank in light of hardships caused to Palestinians in the area.
While this order may delay and complicate the building of the vital barrier, it does in fact reiterate and prove (once again!) Israel's sound democratic and human rights-centered legal system whereby there are checks and balances on government power. Even if they hurt us and betray us, we continue to search for that balance between Israel's security and Palestinian human rights requirements.
Like Sharon's UN speech, Israeli leaders and commentators have responded to the judicial decision in different ways, each focusing on the part that suits their interests and others calling it an all round helpful 'road map' for the anti-terror fence.
I hope the world (press and leaders) take good note of the decision. The High Court of Justice has taught them a lesson of moderation, justice, human rights and sovereignty to the world. I just hope they were in class to hear it.
All that that brings me back to Sharon's speech and the aspects that did surprise me. While in fact this older Sharon may not be the Sharon of old, he still stands as an extremely proud Jew and a sabra Israeli with pride in his country. For what seemed like several minutes, he spoke emotionally about Judaism, the Temples, Abraham, Moses and brought historical truths from Torah to the leaders of the world (in the six official languages of the UN) . Ariel Sharon spoke about G-d and about the treasure which is Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). He spoke with real commitment to that Land and to its inhabitants.
Whether we agree with his policies or not does not matter. For me, this is a man who stood up to the nations of the world and challenged them and hit the ball strongly into the Palestinian court. Unlike many apologetic Israeli and Diaspora Jews, he oozed Jewish-Israeli pride - so few Jews are willing to stand so proudly and strongly today. Without any sense of shame, he blamed the UN for ganging up on Israel over the years and for ignoring dangers like Iran.
We can support him or elect another. We can vote against land for peace if we wish. Yes, he basically equated the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to the land. Yes, hearing this may hurt and alienate.
Still, when push comes to shove, I believe we can take some heart from this man who while painfully conceding to the Palestinians with one hand, remains brimful with inextinguishable Jewish-Zionist desire to keep Israel secure and Jewish, and to bring her to peace and prosperity.