|Photo by: REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen GCM/CN|
Tribute: Larger than Life
By DANNY AYALON
Sharon was a lion on the battle field as well as in his political career and personal life. He was able to rise above all crisis. He refused to be defeated.
Ariel Sharon, the leader, was uncompromising in his commitment to the people and
the State of Israel.
He felt personal responsibility for the security and
well-being of this nation, and dedicated his entire life to it. He was a lion on
the battlefield, in his political career and in his personal life.
fortunate, in working for him, to witness firsthand his unique leadership
qualities, as well as his courage as a human being. He was able to rise above
all crises. He refused to be defeated.
World leaders admired Sharon and
looked up to him as they discovered his integrity, his intelligence and his
willingness to make bold decisions and stand by them. They were also captivated
by his charming personality and wry sense of humor.
They always knew
where he stood. In his words: “They know that my ‘yes’ is a yes and my ‘no’ is a
no, and what to do to change my ‘no’ to a ‘yes.’” In his meeting with Pope John
Paul II in 1998, Arik Sharon discussed the difference between terra santa and
terra promisa, agreeing that the Land of Israel was holy to all monotheistic
religions, but was promised only to the Jews.
Only this strong Jewish
leader could say without hesitation or equivocation to the Holy See in the
Vatican that the Land of Israel only belonged to the Jews.
was never apologetic, but always confident in what was just and right for the
Jewish people, and proudly proclaimed Israel’s interests.
elected prime minister in 2001, he was still controversial in the international
community and especially in the United States.
As world leaders worked
with him, they discovered the real Sharon. The special personal relationship he
developed with president George W. Bush was based on mutual trust and
During Sharon’s term as prime minister, Israel-US relations
reached an all-time high in strategic and defense cooperation during
international crises, including American support for Operation Defensive Shield
and targeted counterterrorism operations in Gaza. The $10 billion loan
guarantees gave us a safety net that helped the Israeli economy overcome the
economic crisis of 2003.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed
Sharon in their meeting in 2001 to give up Jewish land to the Palestinians, the
prime minister asked him: “Why doesn’t Russia give up their disputed land with
Japan back to the Japanese?” As Putin dismissed the idea of giving disputed land
to Japan, Sharon said that what was good for Russia was good for Israel. That
ended Putin’s pressure.
Sharon as a boss was always demanding, but very
fair and supportive, giving us space and independence for initiative and
creativity. He was extremely organized, self-disciplined, coherent and kind –
always asking about the family. His sense of humor and fabled stories
entertained us long into the late hours.
His sudden fall was a tragedy
for the family, and also for the nation. His heroic battle for the past eight
years, against all odds, is symbolic of his largerthan- life
Danny Ayalon served under Sharon as his chief foreign policy
adviser and ambassador to the United States.