Another Tack: Where penitents stand

Only extraordinary self-control can keep Gilad Sharon's readers from throwing his belated common sense back in his face

Rare is the temptation to turn over any of one's finite column space to another's op-ed ruminations. But Gilad Sharon's recent Yediot Aharonot piece - "It's all about hatred" - is one such irresistible exception. Every sentence by Ariel Sharon's younger son deserves to be chiseled in stone. Gilad's straightforward truths should be resonated at home and abroad - often, loud and unequivocally. His words ought to be uttered morning and night by our current premier - the elder Sharon's one-time lackey deputy - and by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who got where she did by deftly sucking up to Gilad's father and hitching an opportunistic ride on his coattails. What Gilad wrote should become no less than the mantra of Israeli diplomacy and PR. That, however, was rendered improbable when Gilad's own dad - whose sentiments were once identical to what Gilad now expounds - cynically performed an abrupt about-face for which he never bothered to account. The senior Sharon's disengagement folly not only callously displaced 9,000 Israeli patriots (they're still homeless), not only poisoned the souls of soldiers and policemen, not only presented Jews as portable interlopers, not only emboldened genocidal enemies, not only brought Hamas to power, not only turned Gaza into an armed-to-the-teeth military encampment, not only exposed greater and greater stretches of the Israeli hinterland to terrorist rocket barrages, but it also distorted the very truth of which Gilad reminds us. Perhaps the gravest and most abiding sin committed by the father - along with his accomplice sons and self-serving entourage - was to lead too many Israelis to lose faith in the justice of our cause and to worship the Golden Calf of Arik's blandishments, extolling disengagement's boon-to-come. On October 25, 2004, as he urged the Knesset to approve the reckless withdrawal, Gilad's father assured the nation that "this disengagement will strengthen Israel's hold on the territory essential to our existence and will win the blessing and gratitude of those near and far, will lessen enmity, will break besiegement and boycotts and will further us on the path of peace with the Palestinians and all our other neighbors." The shattered shards of these sham inducements now tumble menacingly all around us. Not only wasn't a syllable of Sharon's enticing promises fulfilled, but the exact opposite came to pass, just as his all-too-prescient political critics -disparagingly smeared as "rebels" - warned to no avail. We aren't back where we started, we're incalculably worse off. And now Gilad, judged by some to have powerfully influenced his father's ideological reverse, mocks the notion that "the moment the conflict between us and the Palestinians is resolved, the reason for the Arab and Muslim world's hostility towards us will disappear... This conviction is naive and false - the Palestinian issue is the pretext, the means used to slam Israel. It's not the problem. The Arab world never reconciled itself to our existence as a Jewish state in the Mideastern space. "The only Arab maps where Israel appears are military maps. When it comes to the maps used in geography classes at schools, we don't exist... If the Palestinian issue troubled Arabs so much, what stopped them from establishing a Palestinian state before 1967 and the Six Day War?... Terrorism against Jews here started more than 120 years ago, much before the Six Day War and the War of Independence; before we were accused of expulsion or occupation." Gilad goes on to demolish popular canards ascribing terrorism to economic misery. The perpetrator of the Mercaz Harav slaughter, he notes, came from well-to-do circumstances, as did the 9/11 crew. They were driven, Gilad deduces, "not by distress but by hate," by the fact that "radical Islamic fanaticism is unwilling to accept the West, its way of life and culture, and seeks to enforce its dark and zealous beliefs through any means available." The Sharon scion advises Americans and Europeans "to realize that pressuring Israel to make concessions wouldn't bring them the calm they so covet and wouldn't allow them to go back to a life of hedonistic euphoria. Giving in to terrorism and violence doesn't appease the aggressor - as was proven by Hitler - but only encourages him... People around the world and around here too should realize that the zealot demon who emerged from the bottle cannot be compromised with. We can only push it back with strength and determination and bury it deep in the sands of the Arabian Peninsula." Only extraordinary self-control can keep Gilad's readers from throwing his belated common sense back in his face. Where was he in 2005 when Israel - under the father he himself unstintingly supported - gave in to terrorism and appeased the aggressor? Why did he allow his remorseless dad to quash opposition with steamroller ruthlessness in order to compromise with the zealot demon? Why does Gilad not explicitly address what disengagement was? The likelihood that Gilad didn't just suddenly experience an epiphany puts his family's great transgression in a much more sinister light. If Gilad believed all along in what he now preaches - indeed if in his heart of hearts his father clung to the same views - then disengagement's sin wasn't the product of a sincere doctrinal conversion. If this is what the Sharons thought throughout, then they willfully hoodwinked the populace and crushed its spirit to advance egocentric schemes - like extricating themselves from their legal travails. By implementing Peace Now's agenda, they made themselves indispensable enough to the Left to benefit from its sway in the media and the judicial establishment. But why pick at that still-festering open wound? Jewish tradition avers that "where penitents stand, those who have never wronged cannot stand." In other words, repentance is worthier than absolute righteousness. Who, therefore, are we to quibble if Gilad effectively confesses the error of his ways (even if he doesn't quite beat his breast in specific contrition)? It will suffice us if he now comes out and, without pussyfooting, expressly joins the outcry against the further survival-jeopardizing surrenders touted by Olmert, Livni and others of Arik's assorted ex-collaborators. Actively striving to prevent follow-up "disengagements" would be the least Gilad can do to begin to make amends.