AJC Mourns Passing of Ariel Sharon

January 11, 2014 – New York – AJC mourns the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“With the passing of Ariel Sharon, a defining chapter in Israel’s history goes with him,” said David Harris, executive director of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization. “He was a man of towering strength, uncompromising commitment, steely determination, and creative vision.”

The full AJC statement on the passing of Ariel Sharon, at age 85, follows:

AJC mourns the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

He was a man of towering strength, uncompromising commitment, steely determination, and creative vision.

He was among the giants of Israel’s founding generation. Against all the odds, they established the democratic state, defended it against those who sought its destruction, and participated in its remarkable growth and development over the last nearly six decades.

Sharon loved the land, both literally and figuratively. Never happier than when he was on his farm, he was a devoted son of the Jewish people who cherished the return to the land of their biblical roots.

While he fully understood the importance of military strength and strategic acumen to ensure Israel’s security in a turbulent region, he also displayed a political pragmatism that surprised his external and domestic critics. His withdrawal of all Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 was one telling example. Despite his earlier support of their presence, he concluded that Israel’s long-term security goals could best be met by their removal. In doing so, he changed Israel’s political map and, not for the first time, outmaneuvered his adversaries.

And while he was long viewed as a “hard-liner” by his critics, as prime minister he spoke of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, a goal that tragically proved unachievable because of the Palestinian failure to seize Israel’s outstretched hand. He also devoted considerable attention, over many years, to relations with Jordan and developed close personal ties with its leaders, as he did with several other Arab rulers.

AJC had many fruitful exchanges with Ariel Sharon, both in his capacity as prime minister and in his many previous government posts. On a personal level, he was always warm and welcoming. On a professional level, he was always engaged, passionate and focused on the challenges of the day.

With his passing, a defining chapter in Israel’s history goes with him. We shall miss him. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his grieving family and to the nation to which he devoted his entire life.