General of the generals

Sharon collapsed right in the middle of a historic course of action that only he is capable of completing.

I saw my dear friend Ariel Sharon escape with his life from dangerous battlefields numerous times with my own eyes - in the late 1950s - so many times that I find it difficult to believe that he will not escape once again, this time from the battle for his life. The small signs of recovery give me a glimmer of hope. But for now, the disappearance of Ariel Sharon from the hub of the Israeli political scene bears clear signs of a national tragedy. Sharon collapsed right in the middle of a historic course of action that only he is capable of completing. His work was halted in the middle of the historic-territorial operation that he was planning. After he withdrew from the Gaza Strip, Sharon planned to carry out the second part of this major security-political operation - to painfully separate from the Palestinians - while maintaining large Jewish population centers in Judea and Samaria and security areas, including the Jordan Valley, in Israeli hands. And above all, he intended to strengthen a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, all while maintaining - as far as possible - maximum American support. Because there is no worthy Palestinian partner for negotiations in the foreseeable future, Sharon decided to formulate security lines that would enable Israel to defend itself for years to come. The build-up of threats to Israel only further spurred Sharon. He took into consideration not only the danger of Palestinian terror, but also that of the Arab and Muslim states that support it, foremost Iran. He was deeply concerned by Iran's nuclear program, no less than by the considerable assistance and support it extends to the various terrorist groups both in Lebanon and the territories. That is why Sharon decided to work as fast as possible to create a defense envelope for Israel. As only Ariel Sharon is capable, he carried out the painful uprooting from Gaza without bloodshed, proving that only he could take the steps needed to implement the painful separation from the Palestinians - in order to formulate strong lines of defense for the Jews. SHARON'S DEPARTURE in the middle of an operation occurred once before, in February 1983, when the Kahan Commission removed him from the Defense Ministry. It was done based on the pretext that that he was indirectly responsible for the Christian massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla - an entirely untrue accusation. Sharon was mocked when he cried out in warning: "You have taken me out in the middle of the operation" in Lebanon, but that is why the war there continued until spring 2000, for 18 unnecessary years. Because they refused to listen to Sharon, claiming, "He is not the only general around - there are plenty of other generals available in the reserves." They did not understand that Sharon, being the born leader that he is, is the general of the generals. A man like Sharon appears only once in many generations. He is a leader of biblical proportions, with his remarkable achievements and unavoidable mistakes. The complete story of his life is still a long way from being written, despite the millions of words already published about him. I am convinced that, as has happened many times over the years, I will hear people complaining: "What is this Uri Dan talking about? His eyes are blinded by his adoration for his friend Ariel Sharon." After all, there is no dearth of self-appointed heirs who want to take the reins of power "in consultation with Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz" - as if leadership is a mere legal technicality. The plethora of attorneys and legal experts pretending to be leaders completely lacks the ability to extricate Israel from the dangers of the historic ambush in which it currently finds itself - in the middle of the campaign. I dare say one word of caution: In light of Ariel Sharon's security-political-diplomatic performance, the danger of his disappearance from the scene right now is the greatest leadership tragedy that Israel has ever faced, since its establishment. In its wake, many may end up paying with their lives and safety during a long period of dangerous instability. Sharon was forcibly removed from the front lines, in the middle of the war in Lebanon in February 1983, because of Sabra and Shatilla - against his will and notwithstanding his protests. "You have attached a mark of Cain to my forehead," he said. Now, at the height of the struggle for Eretz Yisrael, Sharon's strength appears to have run out, as he lies unconscious and helpless.