Breaking Out of the Box: Learning from Sharon’s Example

My children often have a difficult time understanding that the world is not black and white. Often, they insist on a yes or no answer when the answer lies somewhere in between.

True, many adults also look for clear definitions, easy answers to complicated problems. However, most of us realize that solutions are usually created in shades of gray. There are no easy answers to complicated problems.

I have come to believe that it is only through communication and understanding that solutions are reached. True understanding, I believe, can only be achieved through experience or at least empathy.

Unfortunately, political leaders increasingly are those with no experience outside of politics. Those who have never run a business set our economic policies, who have never seen a battlefield send our young to war, who have never taught in a classroom determine the framework of our educational system.

The politicians become experts at political survival and that becomes a profession unto itself. Career politicians have little experience or true understanding to guide them. They are motivated by self-preservation in the worst case scenario, ideology in the best. Their reward is reelection and if they are skilled and lucky, perhaps they will implement some of their policy goals.

However, what happens when a politician transforms himself and no longer plays party politics? When he has the courage to do what he feels is right without considering the political fallout? When he takes monumental historical actions that almost guarantee that he will lose political support?

Whatever one may say of Ariel Sharon, there is no doubt he has courage.

His policy of disengagement from Gaza, whatever his motivations, ensured that he would be ousted from the political home he had made for himself on the right. I can not imagine he ever deluded himself into thinking he would be embraced by the left either. And so, this former general-turned-peacemaker, settler-turned-evacuator has been forced to learn through his experience that the answer is not left or right. He had to create a new entity, breaking out of the box of the political parties that made up Israeli politics.

They say politics makes strange bedfellows; and I never would have believed that Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres would have ended up in a new political party as they have. The party, named Kadima, meaning to go forward, was Sharon’s only possibility for political survival and so far it has the overwhelming support of most Israelis.

One of my left-wing friends recently told me that when he was younger he swore that if Sharon ever became Prime Minister he would leave the country, noting that he is still here and hasn’t left although Sharon is Prime Minister. Now those on the left might actually vote for Sharon as Prime Minister, myself included. It is difficult to imagine!

Israel is a country that votes with one of the highest voter turnout percentages in the world. A professor of mine at Hebrew University once told me, It is difficult to be a political scientist in a country of political scientists. Israelis care about politics, and we are involved in them. We are still creating a young country and how our country is shaped is very important to us. Living in Israel is not easy and it is largely each citizen’s own political ideology that gives him or her the motivation to survive against the odds.

The fact that we are dynamic enough to adjust to change and form new political realities is a testament to our strength. I must credit Prime Minister Sharon for redrawing the political map in Israel, which ultimately will redraw the political map for the region. Where others would have seen a choice to conform or resign, Sharon accepted neither defeat nor compromise and in their stead creatively reinvented what he found unsatisfactory.

The cynic may say that this was all calculated. After all, Ariel Sharon seems to be on the road to receiving his reward reelection, albeit through a new political party. This may be true. I have no doubt that his motivations for the Gaza withdrawal were not completely altruistic. However, Sharon has reminded us that by looking past the borders imposed upon us, even in institutional politics when there are two large established political parties, there is always another way to achieve our goal. Often, the answer to the problems which consume us is not yes or no, black or white or even a compromise in the middle. It is some of all of these, and it is always in front of us if we seek it out, as Sharon’s actions exemplify. If we keep moving forward, ‘kadima’ in Hebrew; the solution to the most complex problem is ours to realize if we have the ability to see what lies in front of us and the courage to seize the opportunities presented.

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