Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ariel Sharon: The Andrew Jackson of Israel.

A 2005 photo of Ariel Sharon. (Kevin Frayer/AFP/Getty Images.)

Warrior, Farmer, Leader. By Aaron David Miller. Foreign Policy, January 11, 2014. Also here.

Ariel Sharon: Israel’s Soldier and Strongman, 1928-2014. By Karl Vick and Lisa Beyer. Time, January 11, 2014.

Ariel Sharon: A Hard Charger Who Was Loved and Hated. By Josef Federman. AP. Real Clear World, January 11, 2014.

Remembering Ariel Sharon – a great man who defied stereotypes. By Judith Miller., January 11, 2014.

Ariel Sharon: Larger Than Life. By Caroline Glick., January 12, 2014. Also at National Review Online,

Sharon: Myths, Facts, and Blood Libels. By Tom Gross. National Review Online, January 11, 2014.

Ariel Sharon: 1928-2014. By Benny Morris. Tablet, January 11, 2014.

Ariel Sharon’s Legacy of Separation. By Geoffrey Levin. The Atlantic, January 11, 2014.

Left for dead in 1948: The battle that shaped Arik Sharon. By Mitch Ginsburg. The Times of Israel, January 12, 2014.

Sharon, a warrior who sought peace. By Michael Oren. CNN, January 11, 2014.

Sharon realized the limits of military power. By Gideon Levy. Haaretz, January 11, 2014.

Sharon’s contradictory life and legacy: The good, the bad and the very, very ugly. By Chemi Shalev. Haaretz, January 11, 2014.

Sharon’s lasting legacy: Proving that rabbis and settlers can be defied. By Anshel Pfeffer. Haaretz, January 10, 2013.

Ariel Sharon, the Ruthless Warrior Who Could Have Made Peace. By Ronen Bergman. New York Times, January 11, 2014.

Ariel Sharon: Champion of controversy. By Amir Oren. Haaretz, January 12, 2014.

“Sharon was no warmonger, he just put Israel first.” Ron Ben-Yishai interviewed by Atilla Somfalvi. Ynet News, January 12, 2014.

Sharon: The man who executed the Zionist vision. By Nahum Barnea. Ynet News, January 12, 2014.


The life of Ariel Sharon and the life of the State of Israel are intertwined. He was everything the State’s forefathers dreamed of seeing in the generation of the sons, the born Israelis: Handsome, strong, a farmer working his land, a soldier for life. The forefathers provided the vision; the sons – the execution. And there wasn’t a more determined, talented, scheming person of execution than Ariel Sharon.
. . . .
He didn’t believe in peace agreements. In that he was no different from most of the members of his generation, who were raised on the sword and found it difficult to accept any Palestinian as a partner. He believed in unilateral moves. They matched his activist character, and catered to his anxieties over an external solution, a forced solution. If he hadn’t fallen asleep in 2006, he would have spent several months in negotiations doomed to fail with the Palestinians, and then carried out a one-sided withdrawal from most of the West Bank. That was his scheme.

Let’s Remember the Dark Side of Ariel Sharon’s Legacy—and Bury “Sharonism” With Him. By Gershom Gorenberg. Tablet, January 13, 2014.

Arik the Recalcitrant and Brutal. By Emily L. Hauser. Haaretz, January 13, 2014.

How will Sharon be remembered? By Sima Kadmon. Ynet News, January 13, 2014.

What if Sharon Still Lived. By David Landau. New York Times, January 13, 2014.

Burying Unilateralsm Along With its Patron. By Tom Wilson. Commentary, January 13, 2014.

Why I can’t mourn for Ariel Sharon. By Amit Schejter. Haaretz, January 14, 2014.

“How fast can you run?” A soldier remembers Sharon. By Barbara Opall-Rome. The Times of Israel, January 14, 2014.

Sharon realized occupation was the greatest threat to Israel, says just-released biography. By Judy Maltz. Haaretz, January 14, 2014.

Sharon didn’t embrace peace, he defeated it. By Daniel Levy. Al Jazeera America, January 14, 2014.

Top Ten Ways Ariel Sharon Ruined Israel and the Middle East. By Juan Cole. Informed Comment, January 14, 2014. Also at History News Network.

Call Off the Sainthood of Ariel Sharon. By Rashid Khalidi. Foreign Policy, January 13, 2014. Also here.

Sharon: The Man Who Made Peace Impossible. By Ali Jarbawi. New York Times, January 21, 2014.

Ariel Sharon and the Great Leader Peace Myth. By Jonathan S. Tobin. NJBR, January 3, 2014. With related article by Jacob Heibrunn.


Sharon was emblematic of the Israeli refusal to accept that Palestinian resistance was an inevitable response to the forcible establishment of a Jewish state and the concomitant expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. In later years, he became one of the most sophisticated employers of the trope of “terrorism” to demean this resistance.


Reflections on the flawed-but-unmatched legacy of Israel’s Ariel Sharon.

Love him or hate him, Ariel Sharon was a stunningly consequential, larger than life, and historic figure the likes of whom we will not see again. For those Palestinians, Arabs, and even Israelis who will never forget or forgive his transgressions, that’s just as well. Still, Sharon’s passing highlights the troubling reality of a region without leaders. This isn’t so much reflected in the comparison of what Sharon accomplished to what little has been achieved by current politicians in the Middle East; Sharon was far too controversial for greatness. Rather, it is reflected in the thought of what leaders of Sharon’s stature, authority, and power might be able to do for the Middle East today if they had the necessary skill, strategy, and partnerships.
We face a regional leadership vacuum: In Israel, younger leaders lack the credibility of their predecessors. Among the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas may have the desire to make peace, but he does not have the power. He’s also 78, and it is not evident what figure of national prominence could succeed him and unite a divided Palestinian polity. And in the Arab world, you would be hard-pressed to identify a single leader of vision and capacity.
You might say that we’re rudderless. In contrast, Sharon – for all his flaws – could steer the ship that was his country, and particularly as prime minister, he did so boldly.
I met Ariel Sharon for the first time at a Druze wedding feast outside of Haifa in the summer of 1973, a few months before the October war. He was much thinner and more agile then and bounded out of his Israel Defense Forces (IDF) jeep bantering in Arabic, plunging into the crowd of Druze and Israeli Arabs who had gathered to greet him. The bride's family was honored he had come, and Sharon seemed as comfortable there as he might have been at a Jewish wedding in Tel Aviv.
His appetite was already legendary. My wife Lindsay and I watched him devour the heaping platters of rice and steaming lamb – including the brains, of course, which we and Sharon, as guests, were offered. Years later, at meetings with various prime ministers, I’d watch Sharon consume hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches with such abandon that I wondered even then about his life expectancy.
Even more legendary at that time was Sharon’s image as a bold, courageous, and somewhat reckless warrior. His battlefield exploits in crossing the Suez Canal in October 1973 were well-known, as were his grand schemes to use the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon to push the Syrians out, make the Lebanese Christians allies of Israel, and force the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) into Jordan, and convert the Hashemite Kingdom into a Palestinian state.
These schemes were as nutty as they were dangerous; certainly, the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Israelis who died in the course of them paid dearly.
As it turned out, an Israeli State Commission charged Sharon with indirect responsibility for allowing Christian militias to massacre hundreds of Palestinian innocents in Sabra and Shatila. He resigned as minister of defense. As for his schemes, the Palestinians didn’t end up in Amman but instead went to Tunis. Sharon, it turns out, produced the very circumstances he had sought to avoid. Stripped of a military option and stunned by the First Intifada, Yasser Arafat ended up in a political process that brought him to where Sharon didn’t want him: the West Bank and Gaza.
There may not be second acts in American politics. But Sharon’s rise to prime minister – a move few thought imaginable, given his role in the 1982 war and his bulldozing personality – revealed that there are in Israel. His election in February 2001 over Ehud Barak – the largest electoral landslide in Israel’s history – reflected Barak’s unpopularity and the public’s fear and anger at Palestinian suicide attacks during the Second Intifada. It also demonstrated the desire for strong, experienced, and tough leadership from a man much of the public believed might break the back of Palestinian terrorism. And through security measures, the wall/security barrier (which he initially opposed), and targeted killings, he delivered.
In addition to being a warrior, Sharon was also a farmer, with a deep knowledge of and connection to the land – both its agricultural and biblical dimensions. He was proud of this fact and loved to talk animals, or about them. This was on display at the 1998 Wye River Summit, hosted by President Bill Clinton in the United States. Sharon refused to shake Arafat's hand, and he talked about the Palestinians in the third person even though they were sitting at the same table. Indeed, Sharon seemed more interested in the herd of prize Angus cows that the University of Maryland maintained at the Wye River plantation than in the negotiations themselves. Also, on more than one occasion at his farm at Shikmim in southern Israel, Sharon insisted on talking flowers and livestock before business. In 2002, on the helicopter tour he gave Gen. Anthony Zinni, then the Bush administration’s special envoy on the peace process, Sharon narrated with the authority of a man who had walked or driven every kilometer from the Lebanese border to the Negev. Watching Sharon explain the real estate, I thought of the poet’s line about individuals being monarchs of all they survey. Sharon was certainly that.
As prime minister, Sharon matured. I think he learned at least two critical things about his own politics: First, that he had to read the public correctly and not overreach; and second, that if it was possible to do and didn’t cost much, he should keep the Americans happy. Sharon's decision to disengage from Gaza – and essentially take down the settlement enterprise he had created – did both these things. However imperfect the disengagement turned out to be, it was an act of boldness and brilliance that no other Israeli politician of his day could have implemented. Hamas or no Hamas, few Israelis would still want the IDF in Gaza today, even with Hezbollah’s rockets in southern Lebanon.
Just as Sharon learned two things as prime minister, upon his passing, I now have two takeaways on his legacy.
First, with Sharon gone, Israel faces a significant leadership transition. Only the extraordinary and indefatigable Shimon Peres – now 90 – remains from the cast of Israeli characters who shepherded the state through its early years. At a breakfast once at Sharon’s farm with Peres, I watched the two interact. Despite their political differences, there was a real affection and a shared sense of history between them. Indeed, they had both seen just about everything. At one point, Peres actually said that there were few surprises left for the two of them.
The Israeli prime ministers who have followed that generation – Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu – are incredibly smart, able leaders. But they don’t have the same authority, legitimacy, and authenticity as their predecessors. Despite their flaws and mistakes, Israel’s previous leaders had tremendous will and skill to keep a challenging enterprise afloat and prosperous during very tough times. Who now will make the difficult but important decisions? Sharon presided over the evacuation of 8,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza – deeply traumatic but without serious or sustained violence. Who will deal with the evacuation of tens of thousands of ideologically motivated and well-armed Israelis living on the West Bank? The answer just isn’t clear.
Second, Sharon was not a peacemaker. Suspicious and mistrustful, he believed deeply that Israel was engaged in a hundred-year war with the Arabs and had profound doubts about the viability of a Palestinian state. He asked me once whether it was true that I wanted to become the first ambassador to the state of Palestine. When I said no, he laughed and said that was a good thing because there would never be one.
Could Sharon – a man with the power to make big decisions – have changed his tune while prime minister, had he not been felled by a stroke? I doubt it. But we’ll never know.
Had he changed his mind while in office, it would have confirmed the reality that, on the Israeli side, the history of peacemaking isn’t the purview of the left, the doves, or even the moderate right. Instead, it's a history of transformed hawks – Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and perhaps Netanyahu, still the only Likud prime minister to have actually withdrawn from any West Bank territory. By and large tough guys who, for any number of reasons, believed – as Sharon did in calling for disengagement from Gaza – that the situation (and Israel’s interests) demanded a change.
Yet the equation of peace requires many parts to reach a conflict-ending solution. Even if U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry succeeds in getting a framework agreement on peace, anything remotely resembling the creation of a Palestinian state, let alone a true end to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, will require heroic leaders on both sides willing and able to make big decisions. And in the wake of Sharon’s passing, I’m reminded, sadly, that even will and capacity aren’t enough. Such leaders must also have the desire to do get the job done.

Vick and Beyer:

Ariel Sharon died Saturday after having spent the last eight of his 85 years on life support. Incapacitated by a coma that followed a massive stroke, Sharon’s last hours were spent with members of his family at his bedside. Outside, an Israeli nation watched with one eye on the news and another on the past, re-assessing the qualities of a leader whose lifetime spanned the life of the nation.
The long illness, out of public view, seemed to transform how Israelis viewed Sharon. In active life, he had always been a warrior first — a profoundly polarizing one, in the thick of every major conflict during the nearly six decades Sharon spent either in the Israeli military or running it. As an invalid, the hard edges disappeared.
When Sharon was remembered at all in recent years, it was for the five years he spent as prime minister. His signature actions in office – including the unilateral pull-out  of Jewish settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip, and leaving behind the rightist Likud Party he founded to start the center-right Kadima –  were seen as the bold strokes of a confident leader, a quality more associated with the country’s vanishing Founding generation than the media-genic politicians who followed.
“People are forgiving him for what happened in the past, and he is seen as a national icon today,” his longtime media adviser, Ra’anan Gisson told TIME last week, after doctors announced that the end was finally coming. “This is the reincarnation of Israel that people would like to see in the future.”

The following piece on Sharon, “The Lonely Warrior,” was written by Lisa Beyer and ran in TIME magazine on Jan. 9, 2006 after Sharon had slipped into a coma.
To his detractors, Ariel Sharon will always seem the fanatic. He convinced Menachem Begin that invading Lebanon in 1982 would be worth the costs, and in 2000 he insisted on visiting the Temple Mount, the Muslim-controlled holy site in Jerusalem—a walkabout that helped trigger the second intifadeh. As Israel’s Foreign Minister, he refused to shake Yasser Arafat’s hand at the Wye Plantation peace talks in 1998 and eventually made sure Arafat spent his last years barricaded in his offices in Ramallah, unable to jet around the world espousing the Palestinian cause. His planetary dimensions—at 5 ft. 7 in., he weighed as much as 312 lbs.—have long suggested a lack of discipline at the table that many think reflects a deeper wildness. At one point, American intelligence monitored Sharon’s weight in an effort to predict his actions—the theory being the more he consumed, the more adveanturously he would behave. Alluding to his politics, Sharon once acknowledged that he was thought of as someone who “eats Arabs for breakfast.”
That is one image of Ariel Sharon: the right-wing zealot. In the past few years, another reputation has taken hold: Sharon reborn as peacemaker. The idea is that, having achieved his dream of becoming Prime Minister of Israel in 2001 at the age of 73, Sharon would—in a Nixon-goes-to-China kind of way—become the man to reconcile the Israelis and Palestinians once and for all. That was his campaign slogan: “Only Sharon can bring peace.” And people inside and outside Israel began to believe it after Sharon, the man who once planned and nurtured the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, had them forcibly evacuated last August, enabling Israeli troops to leave and turning the entire Gaza Strip at last over to Palestinian self-rule. In the weeks before Sharon’s debilitating stroke, rumors abounded that he was preparing to make bold withdrawals in the West Bank as well.
Sharon, however, has always resisted the stereotypes imposed on him. He was never an unrelenting right-wing ideologue nor, in recent years, a devotee of peace-making. Politically, Sharon is best known as a co-founder of the hawkish Likud bloc, but he has been a member of four other parties, including the precursor to the left-wing Labor Party, in which he started out, and his own creation, Shlomzion, which flirted with doves.
Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip served the interests of peace, although that was perhaps not why Sharon carried it out. His emissaries suggested that he quit Gaza—a sandy, squalid quarter to which few Israelis feel any attachment—to win goodwill in the world in order to strengthen Israel’s claim to its more valued settlements in the West Bank. Media reports recently suggested Sharon was prepared to unilaterally draw a border in the West Bank between Israel and what might become a Palestinian state, emptying Jewish settlements that fell on the wrong side. It’s an interesting idea, and perhaps a good one, but it’s not peacemaking, which requires mutual consent. Sharon almost certainly would have apportioned more West Bank land to Israel than the Palestinians would have kept the conflict alive. His notion of coming to terms with the Palestinians is a bit like the idea that getting out of a bad marriage is as simple as saying, “I divorce thee,” and dictating the property settlement.
But what made Sharon such an enduring—and ultimately appealing—politician was his obdurate self-belief, a refusal to be bound by the constraints of negotiated agreements or ideology. Whatever Sharon did, he was at least as devoted to the fight as to the cause. That is what made him one of the greatest—some peers say the greatest—military commander in Israeli history. It’s what enabled him, from a variety of Cabinet posts, to construct settlements in the face of international opprobrium. But it’s also what allowed him not only to evacuate Gaza but, 23 years earlier, to tear down settlements in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and use water cannons to force out the Israelis there, putting Israel in compliance with Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
Sharon loved the military. He writes in his autobiography that it was in the camaraderie of the army that he first experienced expressions of familial love that he had missed out on as a child. He grew up in Kfar Malal, a moshav, or collection of farms in which major equipment is jointly owned. His parents were so prickly that the family was ostracized on the moshav. Life was hard. Theirs was a three-room house made of mud and manure walls. Sharon’s response was to focus on work. “You could lose yourself in it,” he wrote.
At 13, armed with a club and a dagger, he joined the older moshavniks guarding the fields at night from sporadic attacks by Arab villagers living nearby. “They were not afraid of anything,” he observed of the moshavniks, a quality he emulated the rest of his life. He respected the moshavniks’ views about the local Arabs: they believed the Arabs had “full rights in the land” but only Jews had rights “over the land.” Translation: you can live here, but under us.
Sharon, known as Arik to everyone, was just 14 when he joined the Haganah, a Jewish militia in British mandatory Palestine. Six years later he fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that erupted after Israel declared its independence. As he rose through the ranks, he played a significant role in every one of Israel’s wars. In 1967 he commanded one of three divisions that wrested the Sinai peninsula from Egypt.  In 1973 he led a counterattack in Sinai that broke through Egyptian lines and ended up just 60 miles outside Cairo.
Where Sharon fought, there was usually controversy. As head of Unit 101, Israel’s first commando team, he was assigned in 1953 to avenge the murder of an Israeli woman and her two toddlers by Palestinian infiltrators from the West Bank village of Qibya. Sharon’s forces destroyed a few dozen buildings in Qibya, killing 69 villagers and earning Israel a censure at the U.N. Charged with cleaning Palestinian fighters out of the now Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip after the ’67 war, he did so with ruthless efficiency. It was Sharon who pushed Israeli Prime Minister Begin to bomb Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981, an operation applauded today but widely condemned then.
Israel’s most divisive war is often laid at Sharon’s feet: the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which he planned as Minister of Defense. One objective, running the P.L.O. out of Lebanon, was largely achieved, but the scheme to install in power the leader of the Lebanese Phalangist militia, a Christian group friendly to Israel, was a debacle. After Phalangist forces massacred as many as 800 men, women and children at the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, an Israeli inquiry concluded that Sharon bore “indirect” responsibility, forcing him to resign as Defense Minister. Sharon sued TIME for $50 million for a 1983 cover story that said a secret appendix to the Israeli report stated, in effect, that he had encouraged the massacre. In 1985 a federal jury in New York City concluded that TIME had not libeled Sharon, though it also found that the magazine had acted negligently; after being allowed to examine the appendix during the trial, TIME acknowledged that it had erred in describing what the appendix said and apologized.
Sharon’s lifelong militarism is often mistaken for lifelong rightism. In fact, he spent his military career in the bosom of Mapai, the precursor to the Labor Party, as a favorite of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister. Sharon remained close to those in Labor, especially his friend Shimon Peres. Sharon served as a special adviser to Labor Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1970s.
Those good relations are partly the product of good manners. Belying his oafish appearance, Sharon was a charmer. At the house he shared with his wife Lily until her death in March 2000, on their 1,000-acre ranch on the edge of the Negev Desert, he was an enthusiastic and attentive host. “Please, more lemonade, more cookies,” he would insist to visitors.
After years of political probation following the Lebanon war, it was, ironically, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who gave Sharon his final big break. At peace talks in the summer of 2000, Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the bulk of the West Bank, including some part of East Jerusalem. Arafat refused the deal. Presumably to protest Barak’s offer to divide Jerusalem, Sharon, accompanied by dozens of Israeli police, took the unusual step of visiting what Jews call the Temple Mount, the plateau that today hosts al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The visit provoked rioting and an Israeli response that sparked the second intifadeh, which together with Israel’s countermeasures has claimed some 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli lives. While some Israelis and Palestinians blamed Sharon for provoking the violence, it soon became clear that Arafat, who fanned the unrest, had been spoiling for a fight and would have taken any excuse.
Sharon had always opposed the Oslo peace agreements, arguing that Arafat would just use self-rule to wage war against Israel from up close. As a Palestinian mob lynched two Israeli soldiers on camera, as Palestinian marksmen shot into Israeli houses, Sharon’s view came to be accepted by a growing number of his compatriots, propelling him to power in 2001. Israelis, right and left, were spoiling for a fight too, and Sharon was just the man to deliver one. In his first year in office, he was relatively restrained, punching hard but always calibrating his response to avoid a slap-down by the U.S. But after Sept. 11, the Bush Administration moved closer to Sharon’s zero-tolerance view of Palestinian terrorism. So when a bomber killed 30 people at a Netanya hotel during Passover in 2002, Sharon went all out. He reinvaded the cities of the West Bank with brutal force, using the army’s presence to get intelligence on the terrorists and to make arrests. He stepped up construction of a controversial barrier, started by Barak, that cut through the West Bank and walled out the Palestinians. In 2004, Sharon ordered the assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin and, later, another of the group’s leaders, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, steps that previously had been considered too provocative. And he got results; the intifadeh never recovered its early strength, and Israelis regained their sense of security. Sharon succeeded at what many security experts said was impossible: he found a military solution to terrorism.
Sharon was elected and re-elected in 2003 for his pugnacity, not his vision. He swam among many political ideologies, and none have found the solution to the Palestinian problem. But in the final years of his tenure as Prime Minister, with what was likely to be his last election looming, he seemed closer than ever to defining an ideology of his own. The hard-line Likudniks still believe that Israel can somehow hold onto all the territories. Sharon came to accept the Labor argument that it is impossible for Israel to rule over millions of Arabs indefinitely and still remain a democracy with a Jewish majority. But Labor’s efforts to negotiate a division of the land with the Palestinians have failed. Sharon may have found a third way: draw the line yourself and see what happens. If his successors in his new party Kadima have a chance to try it out, the success of the venture will define a unique political legacy for Sharon. If they don’t, he will have been a hell of a warrior.

Moshe Dayan on Why David Ben-Gurion saw Sharon as the New Jew. Dayan quoted in David Landau, Arik: The Life of Ariel Sharon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014, pp. 32-33.

In his memoirs, Dayan wrote of Ben-Gurion’s “special affection” for three IDF officers: Haim Laskov, Assaf Simchoni, and Sharon. The founding father saw in all three of them “the antithesis of the galuti, or diasporic Jew. The New Jew was a fighter, bold, self-confident, expert in the art of war, in weaponry, in field craft, in the region, and in the Arabs. Ben-Gurion could not bear casuistry and beating around the bush. He didn’t like the Talmud; his heart rebelled against two thousand years of exile. He yearned for the Israelites of the Bible, living on their land, farming and fighting, independent and proud and building their national culture. Haim, Assaf, and Arik were like those ancient Israelites in his eyes.” Ben-Gurion’s biographer Michael Bar-Zohar writes that the Old Man told him he admired two soldiers above all for their bravery and resourcefulness: Dayan and Sharon.

A major goal of Zionism was to reverse centuries of Jewish passivity and powerlessness by creating a “New Jew”: a bold assertive Jewish farmer and warrior, in effect a Hebrew-speaking Jewish Jacksonian. Max Nordau had called for such a “muscle Jew” in 1898: “We must do away with the demeaning image of the stooping Jew in the ghetto, afraid for his life . . . Let us become strong men, with full chests and a deep, lucid expression in our eyes.” Nordau’s description is similar to Walt Whitman’s description of Jacksonian manhood in “A Song of Joys.”
While politically Ben-Gurion wanted modern Israel to be the kingdom of David reborn, socially and culturally he wanted to re-create the independent Israelite farmer warrior of the period of the Judges.
William Dever writes [p. 18 in pdf] that “the early Israelites are best seen as homesteaders—pioneer farmers settling the hill-country frontier of central Palestine, which had been sparsely occupied before Iron I.” The Israelites were in a sense the Jacksonian pioneers of the ancient Near East, who created a primitive democracy of small autonomous farming villages in the highlands of Canaan. Israel Finkelstein believed the houses in one village (‘Izbet Sartah, possibly biblical Ebenezer) were arranged in a circle for protection against Canaanite or Philistine attacks much like the covered wagons on the American frontier. So America’s Jacksonian frontier settlers, who saw themselves as Israelites building homesteads the Promised Land, had a more profound understanding of history than they realized.
As Dayan observed, Ben-Gurion saw this New/Old Jew, ancient Israelite/modern Jacksonian come to life in Ariel Sharon.