11 Shevat 5774
“Ah, Ariel, Ariel!... Let the feasts come round, and I will cause Ariel to suffer…” (Isaiah 29:1-2)
by Daniel Pinner
Ah, Ariel, Ariel! You are a truly tragic figure, in the best traditions of classic Greek tragedy: a hero, larger than life, who fell from the greatest heights to utter disgrace at the end of your life. If only God would have decreed that you become immobilised just one year earlier – just think how you would have been remembered and eulogised today! Almost every Zionist would have remembered you 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 extremists (like the present writer) would still have remembered that you took part in the “Season” – the hunting season, that is, 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. The “hunting season”, 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 and into Israel – and you commanded the Haganah squads whose sole task was to hunt down not Arab terrorists, not the British occupiers, but fellow-Jews who were fighting for Jewish independence in this Land.
Ah, Ariel, Ariel! How cruel God was to allow you that extra year. How cruel He was not to immobilise you before you had the opportunity to disgrace yourself and your ideology in the eyes of the nation and the world. How callous He was to a generation which adored you and idolised you.
Yet by allowing you that extra year of life, God shattered one more false idol of the Israeli Right. How many 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 alas, 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.
To the contrary – it was Begin who 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.
And it was you, Ariel Sharon, who 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 merely 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 annex 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. To the contrary, 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. Shamir turned out to be the stereotype Ghetto-Jew, trembling at the sound of the Cossacks’ sabres and pleading on bended knee for the Gentile (this time America) to protect the Jews.
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 alas, 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.
To the contrary – it was Netanyahu who gave away Hebron, our second holiest city, to Arab terrorists. Netanyahu shook Arafat’s hand (and smiled while he did it!) and hugged that disgusting mass-murderer just as enthusiastically as Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Olmert had ever 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 alas, 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! How are the mighty fallen! 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 Hanukah 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.
That was your Hanukah present to Israel that year.
No one was under any delusions. We all knew that you had given the Left what they wanted – torturing thousands of those hated “settlers” and destroying their lives – in return for not being prosecuted.
But actually you did the entire nation a giant favour. 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 against his own self-interest.
If only God would have smitten you with that stroke a year earlier, then today, on the day of your death, almost the entire Right in Israel would be mourning for you, and the entire Left would have remembered you as a great and heroic enemy.
Instead, you are remembered by all with a combination of pity and contempt, all your previous magnificent achievements wiped out by your last great betrayal.
Ah, Ariel, Ariel! You were once a great soldier, a great politician, and a great leader. Now that you are gone, there will never be another like you. Thank God.