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What Would Arik Do?

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
Vol. 19, No. 19
Weekly Standard


What would Arik have done? The death of former prime minister Ariel "Arik" Sharon last week has evoked this question for Israelis, who face chaos and jihadists in Syria, Hamas in Gaza, instability in Egypt, and above all a potential nuclear threat from Iran.

This question of how Sharon would have handled a particular crisis arose for the first time just months after the stroke that incapacitated him in January 2006. For on July 12 of that year Hezbollah forces rocketed northern Israel and crossed the border to kill several soldiers and kidnap two more. Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, decided in response to launch a war. That war did not go as well, as most observers—Israeli, American, European, and Arab—had initially expected; Olmert had stated war aims that were far greater than Israel's actual achievements. An investigating commission concluded that the conduct of the war had failed in many ways, and reviews of the war five years later (in 2011) suggested that there were at least two major problems. The IDF had spent too many years focusing on fighting PLO and Hamas terrorists and was not well prepared for this more traditional conflict; and Israel's leadership (Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz had almost no military experience and IDF chief Dan Halutz was from the air force) had failed to make accurate assessments and timely operational decisions. What would Sharon have done had he been prime minister?

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