Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Who Loves Ya', Arik?

Ariel Sharon can still be welcomed back by his people, still find lasting love among all those who stuck by him through the years and worked so hard to elect him as prime minister. But, there is a condition. We Jews do not believe in "free love".
Published: Thursday, June 30, 2005 10:03 AM


Inquiring minds want to know, "Why?" That is the question the whole nation is asking as Disengagement creeps ever closer: Why? Why would Ariel Sharon risk igniting a civil war among his own people? Why would he repudiate the will of the right-leaning constituents who brought him to power and his own Likud party? Why would he make a 180-degree turn on a hard-fought career of resolute toughness towards the Arabs and deliver them Gaza gratis, receiving virtually nothing in return? Why?

The knee-jerk reaction is to suggest that Sharon sincerely believes that this brash move will enhance our security, that somehow Israel proper will be a safer, gentler place once Gaza is out of our hands. Unfortunately, the leading military minds and strategic thinkers of the nation do not concur. A host of generals past and present, along with leaders of the Mossad and the Defense Ministry, adamantly insist that the pullback will have the opposite effect. It will only embolden the most radical elements of the Palestinians and lend support to their "crime does pay" thesis: that Israel reacts only to bloodshed and violence, the more extreme the better.

One of the more outspoken critics of the Disengagement Plan is the man who should know best, immediate past Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon. Always a straight shooter - no pun intended - and certainly never known as a Rightist, "Boogie" predicts an imminent eruption of open warfare in Judea and Samaria in the wake of the Gaza retreat. He warns that the move will emphatically boost the popularity of Hamas, bring Kassam rockets ever closer to our living rooms and seriously cripple our intelligence capacity. And, if events dictate our re-entry into the Strip, the price will be heavy and the political fallout disastrous.

So, we ask again, "Why?"

I posed to the question to a psychologist friend, who put Arik on the couch. "You see," he told me, "one of the fundamental urges of a human being, from his earliest age, is to seek attention, affection and, most of all, acceptance. We all want others to love us, and will go to great extremes to win their love. As Sharon - long the target of bitter attack from within and without his party - nears the end of his career, he craves acceptance and is desperately looking for love."

As understandable as this theory is, I am afraid that Sharon is looking for love in all the wrong places. No romance or lasting love affair will sprout from this Disengagement. The Left, which has harbored a visceral hatred towards Sharon at least since Lebanon, will support the prime minister only as long as he serves their purpose, then summarily dump him. The Americans - not to mention the Europeans - will grudgingly approve the withdrawal, but as a first step only, a preliminary installment of the "State for Palestine" plan. If "Gaza First" does not give way to "Samaria Second", "Judea Third" and "Jerusalem Fourth", then the move will stir no passion at all in Washington or London.

As for the Arabs, whatever tiny amount of goodwill Sharon's move initially created among them, it has already been factored in and left far behind. Not only has their response consistently been, "You can receive no credit for returning stolen land," but already there is open talk of a third Intifada if their maximalist demands are not met. Terror continues unabated and the honeymoon - if ever there was one - is over. Sharon's continued appeasement of the Palestinians - loosening travel restrictions, freeing mass-murderers, turning over cities and villages to their command - will be met not by kisses and love, but by bombs and bullets, as tragically confirmed in the last several days.

Yet, there is still one place where Sharon can yet find love and acceptance, and that is among the people who supported him throughout the years. The brave pioneers who devoted themselves to reclaiming this Land and defending it - despite the hardships and danger that involved - grew up with Arik as their hero. It was he who both talked the talk and walked the walk, encouraging settlement of Judea and Samaria and then making it possible, through programs of grants, building and political backing.

In this community, and all who support it, there is abundant love. You can witness it in the way residents of Gaza settlements lovingly built their communities, turning the desert green and absorbing countless terror attacks. You can see it in their steadfast refusal to "take the money and run." You can see it in their absolute commitment to refrain from lifting a hand against another Jew, even as police throw them to the ground and beat them. You can see it in the eyes of the thousands of young people across Israel handing out orange ribbons and making solidarity pilgrimages to Gaza.

And you can see it reflected in the slogan which defines the movement: "With love, we shall prevail."

Ariel Sharon can still be welcomed back by his people, still find lasting love among all those who stuck by him through the years and worked so hard to elect him as prime minister. But, there is a condition. We Jews do not believe in "free love". To win our affection back, Arik must treat us with respect, not repugnance; with sensitivity, not stone-walling; with dignity and not disdain. If he embraces the principles that defined his career - defense of Jewish rights, love of the Land and no compromise with terror - he will again be embraced by those who are truly capable of loving him.