'I Told Sharon, My Grandchildren Will Build Samaria'
Moshe Zar, an activist and redeemer of land in Samaria, decided to keep his criticism quiet after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's death, during the week long shiva mourning period.
But now, Zar has broken his silence in an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva, charting his complex relation with Sharon - a man once admired by Land of Israel activists, but who in his later years would betray many of the very communities he helped set up.
Zar begins by noting that contrary to various publications, he didn't serve in the elite special forces Unit 101 founded by Sharon in the 1950s; nor did he serve as a paratrooper in the famous Mitleh Pass battle during the 1956 Suez War, although he was severely wounded in the war.
Since Sharon's death two Saturdays ago, Zar says "I heard all the media, the praise and glorification of what he did. I don't want to cancel those things and I can add my own," describing the days when Sharon helped lead the expansion of Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.
However, those days were soon numbered.
"Suddenly he cracked the steel armor around the settlements in Judea and Samaria," recalls Zar, noting how Sharon's 2005 "Disengagement" that expelled all Jews from Gaza and parts of northern Samaria (Shomron) laid the groundwork for former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 2008 offer of 98% of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The offer was rejected by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Zar emphasizes that Olmert did not have political clout and was only able to make such an offer by riding the coattails of Sharon. "The one who gave him the ability to do that was Ariel Sharon, who I called my commander."
The final encounter with Sharon
Forty days after Zar's son Gilad was shot to death in an ambush in Samaria in 2001, he went to talk to Sharon in his office.
"I told him 'Arik, let me build 6 communities in memory of my son Gilad who was murdered, may G-d avenge his blood.'
"He started telling me that now isn't the time, and I said immediately 'what do you mean not the time? Now is the time to murder Gilad?' He told me that what you see from there you don't see from here (in a position of power)," recalls Zar.
Zar responded to Sharon "you won't buy me with empty chatter. You won't sell me that... If you can't allow me (to build) then stand aside and don't get in my way."
He recalls that Sharon "sent me to then-Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. I told him 'Arik, I see you're going to get in my way, but my sons and daughters will build; maybe your sons will get in their way, but when my grandsons and granddaughters build no one will stop them.' I got up and left without saying goodbye."
"Since then we didn't exchange a word," says Zar firmly. "Sharon didn't have to act that way. He felt the pain of his (own) son's death to his last day, and forgot that I'm a father too."
Explaining the shift from builder to destroyer
When asked how he explains Sharon's dramatic shift from building in Judea and Samaria to destroying communities in Gush Katif and northern Samaria, Zar revealed he was recorded for 3 hours explaining his take on Sharon's change for the purposes of a movie. He later found that none of what he said was used in the film.
Zar claims to be in possession of a "logical appraisal, that is professional and sharp as a razor, about Ariel Sharon," but doesn't feel now is the right time to share it. When pressed about theories that Sharon was motivated by security pragmatism, Zar denies the claims.
The veteran activist concluded with a hint at his analysis of his former commander, saying it is "without love and without hate. Love and hate are for a different place, not between a commanded and a commander, not between a donkey and his messiah," referencing Jewish tradition on the final redemption.
"He was a bulldozer," he said, in a reference to the former PM's famous nickname. "He was a strong man that decides to do something and in the end does it. That's a lot more serious and wide-reaching than anything."
"As far as I understood and knew, (Sharon) didn't have G-d, didn't have Torah, didn't have laws or judgments, ethics, hygiene, nothing that stood over him," recalls Zar.
Indeed his very sense of determination was as unpredictable and often as unrestrained as the maverick military commander and political enigma that was Ariel Sharon.