Ariel Sharon—a man whose deeds as soldier, general, cabinet minister, and prime minister were decisive in the history of modern Israel, a soldier-statesman of true historical significance, a larger-than-life figure whose like we're unlikely to see again—dies, and Barack Obama issues a statement that would be appropriate if one were recognizing the death of a pedestrian functionary who had routinely served as the insignificant leader of a random country.
Here is Obama's complete statement:
"On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel. We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples. We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country."
Four sentences. Two have nothing to do with Sharon. As for the other two, the most Obama can find to say about Sharon is that he was "a leader who dedicated his life to the State of Israel" and that Obama honors Sharon's "commitment to his country." Of course Obama's statement is more about Obama than about Sharon. One expects that from Obama. But Obama's obtrusive non-recognition of Sharon's significance to the history of Israel and the Middle East, of his leadership in war as well as peace, of the meaning of his life to the Jewish people—Obama's manifest unwillingness to show respect for this fighter for Zion—is striking.
To see how striking, compare Obama's statement with that of his own secretary of state:
Ariel Sharon's journey was Israel’s journey. The dream of Israel was the cause of his life, and he risked it all to live that dream.
I remember reading about Arik in the papers when I was a young lawyer in Boston and marveling at his commitment to cause and country. I will never forget meeting with this big bear of a man when he became Prime Minister as he sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process. He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace.
During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions – and Arik was always crystal clear about where he stood – you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State. In his final years as Prime Minister, he surprised many in his pursuit of peace, and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger. We honor Arik’s legacy and those of Israel’s founding generation by working to achieve that goal.
Arik is finally at rest, and all of us in the United States pray along with his sons, Gilad and Omri, the Sharon family, and all the people of Israel. Our nation shares your loss and honors Ariel Sharon's memory.
Secretary Kerry at least tries to recognize the grandeur of Sharon's life and to acknowledge the scope of his legacy. It is a fitting and proper statement for an American secretary of state. President Obama's statement is, on the other hand, is ungracious and inappropriate that one has to wonder, why? I suppose the answer is pretty obvious: Barack Obama has no warmth for Israel, no appreciation for Zionism, and no respect for those who have fought for the Jewish people.