Ariel Sharon: His Eye Was Not Dim. By Elliott Abrams. Commentary, January 11, 2014.
Assessing Sharon’s Complex Legacy. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 12, 2014.
What Ariel Sharon Knew. By Seth Mandel. Commentary, January 13, 2014.
Ariel Sharon often seemed bluff and simple, and he would play that role: in discussions with his kitchen cabinet down at his ranch (they called it the “farm forum”), he would react to some erudite advice by saying: “I am a simple farmer, not a professor. Explain that again, in simple terms so even I can understand it.”
I took risks personally but never took any risks with the security of the State of Israel. I appreciate Arab promises but will take seriously only tangible performance. For tangible performance I will take tangible steps. Israel is a tiny small country. From the Jordan River to Jerusalem is only 17.5 miles. Before 1967, the Knesset was in range of machine guns south of Jerusalem. From the Green Line to Tel Aviv is 11 miles. From the sea at Netanya to Tulkarm is 9 miles. Two-thirds of the Jewish population lives is a narrow strip on the coastal plain. Between Haifa and Ashdod, which is 80 miles, is two-thirds of the Jewish population, our only international airport, and most of our infrastructure. All of that is overlooked by the hills of Judea and Samaria.
I am a Jew above all and feel the responsibility to the future of the Jewish people on my shoulders. After what happened in the past, I will not let the future of the Jewish people depend on anyone, even our closest friends. Especially when you saw the crowds cheering Saddam who killed even members of his own family and government. With the deepest friendship and appreciation, we do not choose to be the lamb, but not the lion either. I will not sacrifice the nation. I come from a farm family who settled here but I deal with these problems with a cold mind. I met with the Pope, who said this is Terra Sancta to all, but Terra Promisa for the Jews only.
So: “a Jew above all” who wanted Jews to be able to make their own decisions and protect themselves in their sovereign state. I often thought he divided the world into two groups, Jews and all the rest, the latter being further divided into real friends like George W. Bush and real enemies—like most of the Arabs. On this he was unsentimental in the extreme. In the summer of 2005 Sharon gave then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a tour of his ranch, after which the Israeli and American teams sat down for a meal. Sharon sat silently for a while, as he often did, eating huge amounts of food while he listened to the conversation. Several of the Israelis were criticizing the Palestinians and their leaders harshly: their actions, their political culture, their history. Eventually Sharon jumped in and said, “I am going to defend the Palestinians. I have known the Palestinians my whole life. I was raised with them here. Of all the Arabs, the Palestinians are the most talented, and they have the best sense of humor. But there are two problems: their desire to murder and their taste for Jewish blood; and their treacherous ingratitude.”
Ariel Sharon also knew this land as a soldier. He enlisted in the struggle for a Jewish homeland as a boy . . . fought in all of Israel ’s wars . . . and was severely wounded in battle. Over an army career, he became familiar with every inch of the terrain. He knew how high the hills were . . . how broad the rivers . . . where enemies would be likely to hide or strike. And knew he that the land he loved needed both swords and plowshares to prosper in an environment always harsh and often hostile. Ariel Sharon was a brilliant general—and led Israel to some of its most celebrated victories. His experience also taught him the costs of war. In his autobiography, he wrote that “at the age of twenty, most of my friends were dead.” Because he understood these costs, he believed so deeply in keeping Israel strong. Because he understood these costs, the man who made his reputation in battle would also leave his mark as a peacemaker.
In his pursuit of peace, Prime Minister Sharon proved as daring and resourceful as he had been as a general and tank commander. As leader of his nation, he made decisions that caused him great personal pain—and that he knew would be unpopular with many who had been his closest supporters. Yet he stood by his decisions, for this warrior did not dream of more victory in battle; he dreamed of peace for the people he led. And when he committed Israel to a new plan for peace, he did so on the same terms that he had insisted on throughout his life – from a position of strength.
Bringing peace to his people was his life’s work, and Ariel Sharon kept at it up to the moment of his stroke. His energy and determination were a source of inspiration to men many years his junior. As the Scriptures say of Moses, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
Sharon left the political scene in his prime, not physically but politically: on top of Israeli politics, a leader whom opponents and rivals feared and whom everyone understood was almost unstoppable. Sharon was born on a moshav in 1928, two decades before the state. The Israel he leaves finally, today, is a tower of strength and stability in a region being torn apart. Many Israelis contributed their lives to that achievement, but very few can match the contribution of Arik Sharon.