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      Op-Ed: On Ariel Sharon - The "Bulldozer"

      Published: Saturday, January 11, 2014 7:54 PM
      Ariel Sharon was once the right's hero and anathema to the left and the Arab world.


      “Ah, Ariel, Ariel!...” (Isaiah 29:1-2) 

      Ah, Ariel, Ariel! A stroke smote you on 4th of Tevet 5766 (4th January 2006), just weeks before your 78th birthday, barely a year after you first announced the “Disengagement Plan” at the Herzliya Conference.

      You were a great man, hated by some, loved by others – but respected even by your foes. Feared by all, especially your foes. You were the man before whose name the enemies of Israel quailed, the man known as “the bulldozer,” because you would crush anyone who dared stand in your way.

      And for decades, you always used that awesome power for Israel – and then you decreed the expulsion of 9,000 Jews from their homes.
       
      Ah, Ariel, Ariel! You are a truly tragic figure, in the best traditions of classic Greek tragedy: a hero, larger than life, who made a tragic mistake at the end of a long period of leadership. If not for the unilateral disengagement– you would have been wept for and eulogised by every Zionist.

      They would have remembered you only for your bravery as a war hero, a fearless warrior, a great leader – the man who fought for Israeli independence back in the 1940s, the man who won battle after battle in the War of Independence in 1948-49, the man who planned and commanded and won the Suez War (the Kadesh Campaign) of 1956, the hero who saved Israel from annihilation in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the master strategist and tactician who defeated El Fatah terrorism in Lebanon in 1982. 

      Only a few would have remembered that you took part in the “Season” – the name given the activities of 1944, when the Haganah sent its soldiers out to hunt down members of the Etzel (the Irgun) and the Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel or Stern Group) and hand them over to the British occupation authorities. This was the period when Jews were being exterminated in Europe, when Britain’s Royal Navy was patrolling the shores of Palestine to ensure that no Jewish refugees would reach safety here, when Arab gangs were murdering Jews throughout the Land of Israel, when the British Army was forcibly preventing Jews from defending themselves, when the Etzel and the Lehi were battling Arab murderers and desperately smuggling Jews out of Europe. 

      Nationalist Israelis were convinced that you, of all people, would be able to defeat Arab terrorism! You were the great hope of the Israeli right.

       A time there was when Israelis sighed and said: If only Menachem Begin were Prime Minister – just see how he would sort out the terrorists! Begin will restore pride and self-confidence to Israel! But when Begin won the election to become Prime Minister he didn’t dare to annex Judea, Samaria, Gaza, or the Sinai Desert, neither did he dare combat Arab terrorists, neither did he dare to enforce Israeli and Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount.

      Begin set the precedent for destroying Jewish towns and villages when he gave the entire Sinai Desert to Egypt in exchange for a scrap of paper, and Begin who set the precedent for Israel recognizing a Palestinian Arab nation which the Arab League (primarily Egypt) had invented just a decade earlier.

      You,  Ariel Sharon, commanded the destruction of the Jewish communities in the Sinai Desert.
       
      But we made your excuses for you then. After all it wasn’t you that decided on the policy – you executed the decision that Menachem Begin had made, and you did your duty with a heavy heart.
       
      Then Israelis sighed and said: If only Yitzchak Shamir were Prime Minister – just see how he would sort out the terrorists! Shamir will restore pride and self-confidence to Israel! But alas, Shamir didn’t dare to annexe Judea, Samaria, or Gaza (Begin had long since abandoned the Sinai Desert), neither did he dare combat Arab terrorists, neither did he dare to enforce Israeli and Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount. When Saddam Hussein launched 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War, Shamir set the precedent for absorbing a military attack from a hostile state without defending Israel.
       
      And then Shamir initiated the Madrid Conference, which in turn led directly to the Oslo death process, the Oslo murder accords.
       
      Then Israelis sighed and said: If only Binyamin Netanyahu were Prime Minister – just see how he would sort out the terrorists! Netanyahu will restore pride and self-confidence to Israel! But Netanyahu didn’t dare to annex Judea, Samaria, or Gaza, neither did he dare combat Arab terrorists politically as he had done militarily in his younger days, neither did he dare to enforce Israeli and Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount.

       And it was Netanyahu who gave away Hevron, our second holiest city, to Arab terrorists. Netanyahu shook Arafat’s hand (and smiled while he did it!) and hugged that mass-murderer just as enthusiastically as Yitzchak Rabin and Ehud Olmert had done.
       
      Then Israelis sighed and said: If only Ariel Sharon were Prime Minister – just see how he would sort out the terrorists! Sharon will restore pride and self-confidence to Israel! Sharon, who built the settlements! Sharon, whose very life’s work was settling the Land of Israel! Sharon, who had inspired generations of Jews to defy the world, defy their own government, and restore Jewish sovereignty throughout the Land! Sharon, who would eliminate every last terrorist from Gaza, if only given free hand!
       
      You were, after all, the only Prime Minister since Rabin whose hand was not defiled by shaking Arafat’s bloodstained hand.
       
      But you didn’t dare to annex Judea, Samaria, or Gaza, neither did you dare combat Arab terrorists politically as you had done militarily in your younger days, neither did you dare to enforce Israeli and Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount.
       
      Just two days before Rosh HaShanah 5760 (28th Sept 2000), you went up to the Temple Mount. You defied world opinion and the Israeli Government, forcing the Israeli Police to send over 1,000 police officers to enter our holy site. How we Zionists cheered you on! You showed the world that you, of all people, would return Jews to their holiest area in the world!
       
      And less than half a year later you received your prize when the government fell, Prime Minister Ehud Barak fell from office, and you – at long last! – became Prime Minister of Israel. And how we nationalist Israelis rejoiced! Now it was you, Ariel Sharon, “the bulldozer”, who would decide Israeli policy. Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu – they all buckled. But you – never! You would stand firm, you would never waver or compromise.
       
      And then, almost 11 years ago, on the 25th of Sh’vat 5763 (28th January 03), the Israeli electorate rewarded you by sweeping you into power. You led the Likud to victory with 38 seats in the Knesset – twice as many as its closest rival, Labour-Meimad.
       
      How the Left quailed! And how all Israel’s other enemies despaired! And how the right-wing, particularly the National-Religious camp, rejoiced!
       
      But ah, Ariel, Ariel!! Faced with the threat of legal proceedings against you, suspected of fraud and bribery on a massive scale, you – who dared to take on armies vastly bigger than yourself – collapsed. Less than a year after that election, just two days before Hannukah 5764 (18th December 2003), you announced that you would give the Left what they wanted: you would throw every last Jew out of Gaza and northern Samaria.

      By capitulating to our Left and the Hamas, by bringing Hamas missiles within easy striking range of every Israeli city, you destroyed the last great idol of the Israeli Right. You, and only you, were capable of smashing the final delusion that a great secular nationalist would defend Israel.

      Ah, Ariel, Ariel! You were a great soldier, a great politician, and a brave man. But for us,all your previous magnificent achievements were eclipsed by your last great betrayal.