Tribute: Larger than Life

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.

January 11, 2014 14:33
2 minute read.
Ariel Sharon and then Israeli ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon [file].

Ariel Sharon and then Israeli ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon [file].. (photo credit: REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen GCM/CN)


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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.

I was 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.

Arik Sharon was never apologetic, but always confident in what was just and right for the Jewish people, and proudly proclaimed Israel’s interests.

When first 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 respect.

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 figure.

Danny Ayalon served under Sharon as his chief foreign policy adviser and ambassador to the United States.

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