Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Lion of Zion

Peter Berkowitz writes a magnificent treatment of Sharon, in his column article in the Weekly Standard, Ariel Sharon's Legacy.
For 30 years, Sharon believed that Israel's security was best served by Israeli settlements criss-crossing the West Bank. As prime minister he saw that in light of changing demographic realities and the savagery of Palestinian terrorism, Israel's security was better served by disengagement...

...SHARON HAS ALWAYS BEEN A FIGHTER--cocksure, courageous, charming, defiant, quick-tempered, duplicitous, amazingly resilient, and, above all, steadfastly focused on Israel's security. The story is told that in the 1950s, when he led the "101" commando unit, Sharon would, just before an operation began, order his communications aide to keep a certain distance so that if orders from headquarters to cease and desist arrived, they could not be relayed to him. The stories of Sharon keeping the law at a convenient distance could be multiplied. Perhaps no Israeli military officer was reprimanded more or subject to more commissions of inquiry than Sharon. At the same time, Sharon commanded the loyalty of his men, was admired for his warmth and sense of humor, and for 60 years' performed deeds, in and out of uniform, essential to protecting Israel from enemies sworn to its destruction.

Sharon is the last of the 48ers--think of Yitzhak Rabin, Ezer Weizman, Moshe Dayan--to occupy the commanding heights of Israeli politics. He belonged to the generation that was born and bred in Israel, that came of age loving the land and fighting in the War of Independence, that was proud of the Zionist dream, that fought hard and lived large, and that, after heroic military careers, governed the nation well into its sixth decade. The 48ers were not always the best of democrats, especially Sharon. And yet time after time, they, and Sharon in particular, rose up to defend their small, surrounded, war-torn, beautiful country, making it possible for Jews to build a free and democratic state in their ancestral homeland.
Read the whole thing.

And from James Bennett, writing in the NYTimes:
As a leader, Mr. Sharon - his first name means "Lion of God" - was everything he seemed, and its opposite. He was blunt in speech and subtle in aim, sloppy in appearance and meticulous in preparation, grandfatherly in demeanor and ruthless in reality. In their 1973 study, "The Israeli Army," Edward Luttwak and Dan Horowitz concluded that he "concealed one of the finest tactical minds in the Army behind the carefully cultivated image of a simple fighting soldier."
Mr. Sharon was no mere blur, of course. He used ambiguity to hold the political center but he held that political center in order to shape it.

And Canadian columnist David Warren provides another tribute to Sharon here in which he explicitly answers the kind of criticisms of Sharon made by Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens and Amos Oz.
In 1982, in Beirut, a decade after his official military retirement, he was again criticized for being a “results oriented” kind of guy. (The words “Sabra” and “Shatila” come to mind.) It is no time to go into all THAT again, but the reader should be assured, as ever, that the criticism requires suppressing the large picture, to accentuate the small; and in this case, holding Sharon responsible for what was done by Phalange allies, on whom he had no choice but to rely. The truth is, Sharon has always been disliked by “liberal” people, whose whole worldview requires looking through the telescope from the wrong end.

Sharon was never a murderer, and to the extent of my knowledge, never made a murderous military decision in cold blood. But characteristically, he would not wait for the enemy -- including partisan civilians -- to do their worst, before doing his. That is why he lived to old age.


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