Ariel Sharon, RIP

It’s hard to take the measure of a man like Ariel Sharon. As a warrior and as a statesman, he was a giant in Israel’s history. Commentary has posted Elliott Abrams’s brilliant assessment under the heading “Ariel Sharon: His eye was not dim.” It includes this eulogy that Abrams wrote for President Bush as they anticipated Sharon’s death at the time of Sharon’s stroke eight years ago:

Ariel Sharon also knew this land as a soldier. He enlisted in the struggle for a Jewish homeland as a boy … fought in all of Israel ’s wars … and was severely wounded in battle. Over an army career, he became familiar with every inch of the terrain. He knew how high the hills were … how broad the rivers … where enemies would be likely to hide or strike. And knew he that the land he loved needed both swords and plowshares to prosper in an environment always harsh and often hostile. Ariel Sharon was a brilliant general—and led Israel to some of its most celebrated victories. His experience also taught him the costs of war. In his autobiography, he wrote that “at the age of twenty, most of my friends were dead.” Because he understood these costs, he believed so deeply in keeping Israel strong. Because he understood these costs, the man who made his reputation in battle would also leave his mark as a peacemaker.

In his pursuit of peace, Prime Minister Sharon proved as daring and resourceful as he had been as a general and tank commander. As leader of his nation, he made decisions that caused him great personal pain—and that he knew would be unpopular with many who had been his closest supporters. Yet he stood by his decisions, for this warrior did not dream of more victory in battle; he dreamed of peace for the people he led. And when he committed Israel to a new plan for peace, he did so on the same terms that he had insisted on throughout his life – from a position of strength.

Bringing peace to his people was his life’s work, and Ariel Sharon kept at it up to the moment of his stroke. His energy and determination were a source of inspiration to men many years his junior. As the Scriptures say of Moses, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

Abrams alludes to, and quotes from, Sharon’s autobiography, Warrior (written with David Chanoff), a book that the late Dean Barnett ranked with Grant’s Memoirs. (Dean ranked Warrior ahead of Grant’s Memoirs.)

The strength of Abrams’s estimate of Sharon derives from the personal element he brings to it. Seth Lipsky also brings a touching personal element to his New York Sun editorial tribute to Sharon. Also worth reading is the historian Benny Morris’s assessment at Tablet.

At the Weekly Standard, Lee Smith rounds up just about everything worth reading at this point, while Standard editor Bill Kristol identifies one telling statement that might better be passed over (so to speak).