The Politics of Funeral AttendanceToday was former Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon's funeral. He spent his life defending Jews and the State of Israel. He was a proud Jew, showing his support for the "Jewishness" of the State by visiting the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the only holy place we have in the world. While not anywhere perfect, it seems that Sharon did his best to defend the Jewish state and her citizens, putting himself in harms way time and time again. I will not hide my disappointment and anger in his decision to remove the Jews from Gaza (I was in Israel at the time, the 'disengagement' rocked everyone) - but I will give him the benefit of the doubt that somehow he thought that this was what was best for the State.
On a related note, what is interesting to note is who showed up at his funeral. Looking back over the last year - there have been two other notable funerals: Lady Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.
Lady Thatcher is best well known for standing shoulder to shoulder with President Ronald Reagan when facing down the Soviet Union, ultimately bringing down the Iron Curtain and bringing freedom to millions of people across eastern Europe, the Baltic states and all those countries swallowed by the Communist regime. An amazing lady in her own right, a person who brought Britain back into the forefront of world politics - she is someone who should be honored by all.
What was interesting about her funeral was who showed up to the funeral and who did not. There were no former presidents in attendance. Neither was the current one. Who did the Obama administration send? Ex-Secretaries of State George Shultz and James A. Baker III and assorted other officials. Three current Republican House members did also attend. Not one Democrat was there. Interesting.
Nelson Mandela's funeral, on the other hand, brought world leaders out of the woodwork. Mandela was no doubt an important man in bringing South African apartheid to an end without bloodshed - perhaps he was the only one who could have done it. While we no doubt had a special leader we are speaking of, there are legitimate concerns related to his questionable associations with terrorist leaders PLO Yasser Arafat and Libyan Muammar Gaddafi. To add to these concerns, we know that Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe attended his funeral - were they friendly?
Three ex-Presidents, and the current occupant of the office, traveled to South Africa to give their respects. Not one could be bothered to show their face in London earlier in the year?
Vice-President Joe Biden is currently in Israel for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's funeral - certainly a nice gesture, but not one that makes sense ideologically, when we know that Sharon was a hard-liner (read: believed in the security of the Jewish State), but one that makes sense politically. Since we know that the Obama's foreign policy is in shambles - Iran's red lines are being erased by the minute, oh wait I forgot, we made a "peace" deal, they are considering thinking about getting rid of their nuclear weapons, Syria's President Assad has been using chemical and conventional weapons murdering his people wholesale… it is always a good time to pressure Israel into doing something stupid (read: re-starting the "peace process").
Make no mistake, Vice-President Biden is only in Israel to further pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into making the same mistakes Ariel Sharon did in the name of "peace". In other words - look, "hardliner" Sharon managed to pull out of Gaza and make "sacrifices", why can't you? That is the only reason Biden is there - to get more concessions out of Israel. We will see what comes out of this visit.
Funerals bring out the essence of the person being honored - we see what they stood for and we see who shared their values. This past year has certainly been interesting.