January 18, 2013
IN THE middle of the 70s, Ariel
A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.
My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that’s how it came back to me.
Five years earlier, when the Palestinians in
(The idea of turning
AT THE time,
In 1973 he left the army, after realizing that he had no chance of becoming Chief of Staff. This may seem odd, since he was already recognized as an outstanding battlefield commander. The trouble was that he was also known as an insubordinate officer, who despised his superiors and his peers (as well as everybody else.) Also, his relationship with the truth was problematical. David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary that Sharon could be an exemplary military officer, if only he could abstain from lying.
When he left the army,
After the Yom Kippur war, the argument about his part in that war became the center of “the battle of the generals”. He started to visit me at my home to explain his moves, and we became quite friendly.
He left the Likud when he realized that he could not become its leader as long as Menachem Begin was around. He started to chart his own course. That’s when he asked for the meeting with Arafat.
He was thinking about creating a new party, neither right nor left, but led by him and “outstanding personalities” from all over the political landscape. He invited me to join, and we had long conversations at his home.
I must explain here that for a long time I had been looking for a person with
military credentials to lead a large united peace camp. A leader with such a
background would make it much easier for us to gain public support for our aims.
In the end
The Likud had won the elections and Begin became Prime Minister. If
(There was a joke making the rounds at the time: Defense Minister Sharon would call for a meeting of the General Staff and announce: “Comrades, tomorrow morning at 06.00 we take over the government!” For a moment the audience was dumfounded, and then it broke out into riotous laughter.)
However, when Begin’s preferred Defense Minister, the former Air Force chief
Ezer Weizman, resigned, Begin was compelled to appoint
One of them, which he expounded at the same time to the
This was typical
AT THE same time, nine months before the
Basically it was the same as the one he wanted to propose to Arafat.
The army would invade
The army would also drive the Syrians out of
I duly published all this, and nine months later
Militarily it was a demonstration of “the Peter principle” – the brilliant
battle commander was a miserable strategist. No unit of the Israeli army reached
its objective on time, if at all. The Israeli-installed dictator, Bachir
Gemayel, was assassinated. His brother and successor signed a peace treaty with
And, worst of all, in order to induce the Palestinians to flee, Sharon let the
barbarous Christian Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and
Shatila, where they committed a terrible massacre. Hundreds of thousands of
outraged Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, and
At the height of the
IT LOOKED like the end of
One of his media vassals, Uri Dan (who had started his career in Haolam Hazeh) once coined a prophetic phrase: “Those who don’t want him as Chief of Staff, will get him as Minister of Defense. Those who don’t want him as Minister of Defense, will get him as Prime Minister.” Today one could add: “Those who did not want him as Prime Minister, are getting him as a national icon.”
An ex-general, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, told me yesterday: “He was an Imperator!” I find this a very apt description.
Like a Roman imperator,
generous and cruel, genial and treacherous, hedonistic and corrupt, a victorious general and a war criminal, quick to make decisions and unwavering once he had made them, overcoming all obstacles by sheer force of personality.
One could not meet him without being struck by the sense of power he emanated. Power was his element.
He believed that destiny had chosen him to lead
His character was formed in his early childhood in Kfar Malal, a communal village which belonged to the Labor party. His mother, Vera, managed the family farm with an iron will, quarreling with all the neighbors, the village institutions and the party. When little Arik was injured in a fall on a pitchfork, she did not take him to the village clinic, which she hated, but put him on a donkey and led him for several kilometers to a doctor in Kfar Saba.
When rumor had it that the Arabs in neighboring villages were planning an attack, little Arik was hidden in a haystack.
Later in life, when his mother (who still managed the farm) visited his new ranch and saw a low wall with holes for irrigation, she exclaimed: “Ah, you have embrasures! Very good, you can shoot through them at the Arabs!”
How could a poor army officer acquire the largest ranch in the country? Simple: he got it as a gift from an Israeli-American billionaire, with the help of the finance minister. Several dubious large deals with other billionaires followed.
SHARON WAS the most typical Israeli one could imagine, embodying the saying (to which I modestly claim authorship): “If force does not work, try more force.”
I was therefore very surprised when he came out in favor of the law dispensing with the military service of tens of thousands of orthodox youngsters. “How can you?” I asked him. His answer: “I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!” I told him that for me it was the other way round.
Ideologically, he was the pupil and successor of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe
Dayan, leaders who believed in military force and in expanding the
Later, when requested to put an end to “terrorism” in
At the beginning of his career as commander he was a bad general. But from war to war he improved. Unusual for a general, he learned from his mistakes. In the 1973 war he was already considered the equal of Erwin Rommel and George Patton. It also became known that between the battles he gorged himself on seafood, which is not kosher.
THE MAIN endeavor of his life was the settlement enterprise. As army officer, politician and successively chief of half a dozen different ministries, his central effort was always to plan and set up settlements in the occupied territories.
He did not care whether they were legal or illegal under Israeli law (all of them, of course, are illegal under international law, for which he did not give a damn).
He planned their location, with the aim of cutting the
However, when settlements obstructed his plans, he had no compunction about
destroying them. When he was in favor of peace with
WHEN HE died last week, after lying in a coma for eight years, he was eulogized by the very people he despised, and turned into a shallow folk hero. The Ministry of Education compared him to Moses.
In real life he was a very complex person, as complex as
His main legacy was catastrophic: the scores of settlements which he implanted
all over the