Meir Indor –
In the days of mourning that followed the death of Ariel Sharon, the media performed a sophisticated maneuver with a clear goal: making its own legacy Sharon’s. Obviously, had he displayed the stubbornness of a Shamir to the end of his days, he would have received neither such warm coverage nor funeral attendance by VIPs from abroad (remember Shamir’s modest funeral). They’ll yet put up the Sharon Heritage Center, with its focus on the expulsion from Gush Katif and retreat in the face of terrorism.
Ze’ev “Zambish” Chever, who was invited by Sharon’s children to eulogize him, has argued that a person who believes in a certain path would not sacrifice that path and the public’s wellbeing just because he found himself under investigation. Zambish, surely, would not do so. In his beautiful eulogy he noted that sometimes one must love with one’s eyes closed, and spoke with pain of the final two years, when Sharon disengaged from the nationalist public.
Meanwhile, Noam Arnon, the moderate spokesperson of the Jewish Community of Hebron, attacked settler leaders from Judea and Samaria who participated in Sharon’s funeral: “We are not taking part in the ceremony. We are keeping our distance. Sharon’s latter deeds cancelled out his former deeds.”
I asked Minister Uri Ariel whether the affairs over which Sharon had been investigated were in the background when he decided to perform the Disengagement.
Uri carefully responded, “Let’s put it this way: I couldn’t find any other logical reason.”
A former police commissioner who took part in the investigation said that there were those on the force who really worried that no judicial figure would dare disturb the retreat celebration by putting him on trial. It would have taken public courage, which at the time was in short supply, to put Sharon on trial while he was retreating from the Gaza Strip—a maneuver that meant so much to the elites. Judge Cheshin was later heard to remark on the matter: “How could anyone have put on trial a person in the middle of a historic maneuver?!”
The Donkey that Kicked
The media portrayed Sharon as “the father of the settlements,” perhaps to emphasize the magnitude of the break: if even “the father of the settlements” changed direction, then the whole enterprise must be very precarious.
Yet although Zambish did describe Sharon with those words at the funeral, no previous leader of Amana saw it that way.
For them, he was the bulldozer. They were the drivers.
Years before the event, Rabbi Moshe Levinger warned me that Arik was liable to flip. Sharon himself said the same to Zambish, with his famous remark about the messiah’s donkey, which is liable to kick sometimes. And kick he did.
Arik was a complicated man. As long as his wife, Lilly, was at his side, she had a great deal of influence on him—rightist influence.
While I was in America to found the Hebron Fund, Arik came to address the Jews of New York. We lay in wait at his hotel to persuade him to mention the settlement of Hebron in the conferences he was to attend.
When he came back at midnight and found us there, he was angry: “I told you not to come because I wouldn’t have time.”
But Lilly persuaded him.
“Arik, they’re here already. Talk to them.”
And Arik talked and talked for an hour-and-a-half.
His instability was a result of his greater predilection toward execution than toward ideology. He was a man of extremism and contention, lacking the managerial demeanor required to take account of every sector of the public. He had the same battles in political life that he had had in the army. Such a person cannot be the chief of staff—and by the same token cannot be the prime minister. From the moment he reached the position, he took it toward extremism.
And despite it all, as Sharon’s soul journeys along to stand trial before the heavenly court, let me accompany it with two stories in his defense.
One cool, autumnal night, I was positioned with long-range binoculars at a station adjacent to the command post overseeing the IDF’s operations to squelch the terrorism emanating from the villages of Safi and Fifa, east of the Dead Sea. In the middle of the night I heard a voice at my side asking what I had seen so far. It was Arik, then the commander of the regional command. He had passed over the intervening ranks and come on his own to ask a sergeant questions. This was my first lesson in getting down to details.
I received my second lesson while serving in the Rimon commando unit. The regional commander, General Sharon, arrived for a surprise visit, but the unit’s commander was absent. Another team commander and I were the only commanders to be found.
Sharon called us into an operations room and held a kind of advisory discussion, a sort of review or inquiry into our modus operandi. It was important to him to hear our opinion: he asked us about the efficacy of different types of activity in the sector. This wasn’t modesty (or perhaps it was?), but a lesson in how to go about business, and a moment of truth.
The generals of the IDF have now covered Arik Sharon’s grave with the earth of the Land of Israel, “for you came from the dust, and from the dust you shall return.” Baruch dayan ha’emet. Blessed is the Judge of truth.
Originally published in Makor Rishon, 17 January 2014