The Jewish Gulliver

Ariel Sharon has also become a deterrent factor in the face of terror threats.

hamas rally 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hamas rally 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The cries of rejoicing among the Palestinian terrorist organizations and in the Arab and Muslim countries that support them at the news of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's critical condition are a bad sign. More than any other Israeli leader, and for more years than anyone else in Israel, Ariel Sharon has served not only as a symbol of Israel's security, but has also become a deterrent factor in the face of Arab threats. That is why the moment this symbol collapsed in Jerusalem's Hadassah University Medical Center, Israel's Arab enemies are relating to it as a sign of Israel's weakening, a weakening that represents an invitation to step up hostilities. Consequently, not only is the moribund peace process that is close to death on the operating table, but at the same time the ominous shadow of the threat of terrorist attacks and war is growing. Sharon's collapse will create an unprecedented leadership-security vacuum, more than the demise of any other prime minister. His loss is a veritable natural disaster, a leadership-security catastrophe of colossal proportions. There is good reason why he became the most popular prime minister Israel has ever had. I say this because I stood at Sharon's side on his many military, political and diplomatic battlefields since he became the commander of the only paratrooper commando regiment at the time, number 890, in 1954, and that is where our close relationship and friendship, which has lasted more than 50 years, began. Since that time, Sharon has been a key figure - as an IDF officer and as a minister in Israel's governments, in all the wars against the Arabs. Everywhere he acted, he attained a decisive victory over the Arab enemy, from the reprisal attacks against Palestinian terrorism in the 1950s, to crossing the Suez Canal in 1973 and the eviction of Yasser Arafat from Beirut in 1982. As prime minister, he efficiently eliminated Arafat's suicide-bomber factory and lived to see Arafat dead and buried. Sharon related to him as "the greatest murderer of Jews since World War II." No Arab bullet, mortar shell, tank or plane ever managed to deter him. At the same time, he contributed to the establishment of stable and peaceful ties with Egypt and Jordan, and was willing to do more than any other Israeli leader to reach a settlement with the Palestinians. However, they once again missed the opportunity. For many years to come, they will not find facing them an Israeli leader capable of building up a peaceful coexistence between the two nations - unless Ariel Sharon rises from his sickbed. The spirit of madness that has overtaken the terrorist organizations already views Sharon's removal from the scene as a general collapse of Israel's wall of security and as an invitation to continued aggression. Only Sharon, with his great love for Jerusalem, could have taken my advice to go up to the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000, to challenge the attempt by then prime minister Ehud Barak to allow Arafat a foothold in the site most holy to Jews. On the blackest day in Sharon's public career, in February 1983, when he was thrown out of the Defense Ministry after the Kahan Commission imputed him with indirect responsibility for the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, I stood up and said: "Those who don't want to see Sharon as defense minister will get him one day as prime minister." In those days, the Israeli media and politicians carried out a political lynching of Sharon, determining that his political career was over. My friend did not believe my forecast and asked why I had said what I did. I explained to him that his removal from the Defense Ministry served as a signal to Israel's enemies that their most dangerous opponent had been thrown off the Israeli wall - and that that would bring war in time. And when the war came, the Jews would turn to him to save them. I added that I hoped I would be wrong, "but because I have worked with you in the Defense Ministry, I know just how rotten our political and security establishments are." And indeed, first came the first intifada in 1987-1992, and it was followed by the first suicide attacks in 1996. During that time, there was no one else of Sharon's caliber among Israel's security leadership. He always excelled at taking responsibility for the most daring campaigns and operations, meticulously planned down to the smallest detail, with he himself making the most difficult decisions. That is how Sharon was from the time I first met him, standing on the military or political battlefield, whether with a tank or a bulldozer, always managing the campaign with astonishing cool-headed control. The collapse of the man no enemy bullet could defeat, and in the finest of hospital in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that Sharon so loved and never intended to divide, has laid bare the true tragedy of Jews in Israel and the world - that for the time being, no leader able to enter the shoes of the Jewish Gulliver, Ariel Sharon, can be seen on the horizon.