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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“Bulldozer” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dies

15 January, 2014 - 17:32
REUTERS photo

Ariel Sharon, whose half century as a military and political leader in Israel was marked with victories and controversies, died Saturday after eight years in a coma, Israeli Army Radio reported. Sharon was 85.

Ariel (Arik) Sharon’s forefathers came from Belarus. His grandfather, Mordechai Scheinerman, was born to a cantor’s family and raised in Brest-Litovsk. Among his friends was Zeev Dov, father of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. After WW I broke out, the Russian empire ordered all Jews deported from the front-line areas.

In Tiflis [currently Tbilisi, capital of Georgia] his son Mordechai Shmuel Scheinerman enrolled in the local University’s Faculty of Agriculture. There he met his future wife Vera Schneirov who was enrolled in the medical school. In 1920, the Red Army launched an offensive on Georgia. The Scheinermans decided to settle in Palestine. Ariel Sharon was born on February 27, 1928 in Kfar Malal, an agricultural moshav, then in the British Mandate of Palestine.

Sharon was a commander in the Israeli Army from its creation in 1948. As a paratrooper and then an officer, he participated prominently in the 1948 War of Independence, becoming a platoon commander in the Alexandroni Brigade and taking part in many battles, including Operation Ben Nun Aleph.

Hard to believe, but the first Leftist Social Democratic Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, refused to accept the presence of any special forces. Interestingly, he was echoed by Moshe Dayan, the intrepid Chief of Staff during the Six-Day War (1967). Faced with growing Arab guerilla warfare and inadequate Tsahalis (Israel Armed Forces) performance, Ariel Sharon decided a special force trained to act behind the enemy rear lines had to be formed. He even convinced Moshe Dayan that it was necessary. That was how Unit 101 came to be in 1953. It existed for only five months, but it succeeded in terrorizing the Arabs. Sharon-commanded ninja squads raided the enemy and prevented their acts of terrorism.

In the 1956 Suez War (the British “Operation Musketeer”), Sharon commanded Unit 202 (the Paratroopers Brigade), and was responsible for taking ground east of the Sinai’s Mitla Pass and eventually taking the pass itself. Having successfully carried out the first part of his mission (joining a battalion parachuted near Mitla with the rest of the brigade moving on ground), Sharon’s unit was deployed near the pass. Contrary to command’s instructions, Sharon engaged the Egyptians and his brigade launched an offensive, losing 40 men.

In the 1967 Six-Day War, Sharon commanded the most powerful armored division on the Sinai front which made a breakthrough in the Kusseima-Abu-Ageila fortified area. His armored vehicles moved quickly behind the enemy rear lines, causing the Arabs to retreat almost as quickly. He retired from the army in the summer of 1973, but was recalled to active duty with his reserved 143 Armored Division three months later when the Yom Kippur War began. He led it across the Suez Canal and by the end of hostilities the 3rd Egyptian Army surrendered, having been encircled. Cairo wanted peace and Ariel Sharon was once again a national hero. Israeli tank crews wrote on their machines: “Sharon, the Ruler of Israel.” His combat operations at the time are included in military academies’ textbooks as examples of quick and unconventional tactical and strategic approaches.

Sharon retired from the Tzahal after the war, as major general, and took up politics. He served as Israel’s minister of agriculture and defense. He was hostile toward Palestine. In 1970, he had finally built his image as a Hawk by ordering armored bulldozers with machineguns to destroy Palestine homes after the revolt in the Gaza Strip, receiving his nickname, Bulldozer.

As defense minister, he pushed through the idea of the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 (considering that the country had been ravaged by several years of civil war). Israel’s main goal was to destroy the remaining PLO bases in Lebanon. Israel was assisted by the Phalanges, Lebanese Maronite Christian militias. The latter massacred several thousand Arabs in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, with Israeli troops looking the other way.

Ariel Sharon did not hate the Palestinians so much he wanted to have them all dead, and nor was he fraught with the idea of Great Israel. The man must also have felt no responsibility for the Palestinian refugees or any civilians who felt prey to combat actions. Whenever he made a decision, he did so proceeding from his understanding of what was necessary for Israel and its national security.

The investigative Kahan Commission (1982) found Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacre. Ariel Sharon was forbidden to occupy the defense minister’s post ad infinitum. For the next 16 years Ariel Sharon would occupy a number of ministerial posts in four Cabinets.

During that period he would take a harsh stand toward Palestine. He would initiate the construction of Israeli settlements on the western bank of the Jordan River in the Gaza Strip. This won him the leadership of the Likud Party (of which he was a member for almost 30 years).

Uppermost on his mind were the interests of the State of Israel, the way he understood them. The years of struggle with Arab terrorists, guerilla operations, had their toll. At the time, the only language Ariel Sharon could understand was that of violence in response to violence, revenge for any such act against Israel, regardless of the place. His desire to avenge such acts verged on fanaticism. Some of his acts even looked like those of a regular adventurer.

In 2000, he visited the Temple Mount complex, site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest place in the world to Jews and the third holiest site in Islam. This ignited the Second Intifada. Sharon that way attacked the Leftist Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to recognize Palestine as a state within the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and some neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

President of the Palestinian National Authority Yasser Arafat had long been preparing for the Intifada and Sharon’s demarche was a godsend for him. In the course of a pitched political struggle, Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister in 2001.

Not coincidentally, he was considered to be a Hawk. In response to the Intifada of 2002, he ordered all West Bank cities seized and allowed all methods of collecting intelligence. In the end, Yasser Arafat was isolated in his quarters in Ramallah where he would spend the remaining years of his life. Sharon allowed him to leave his quarters only to die in a French military hospital in 2004.

That when Sharon the Israeli Hawk made a serious political mistake. After several years of consecutive counterterrorist operations, he arrived at the conclusion that it was impossible to defend the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and insisted on Israel’s unilateral “Disengagement Plan,” aimed at resettling all Israelis from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the northern West Bank.

The populace was, of course, resolutely against the idea and opposed every resettlement effort by authorities. The prime minister declared that was being done was necessary for Israel’s national security and then ordered troops to help implement his plan. All told, more than 8,000 settlers had to leave the Gaza Strip.

Such actions caused a rip within Israeli society and Likud. Retired General Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, who had previously allowed Ariel Sharon to lead the party, now was at the head of inner party opposition. Ariel Sharon did not fight him, he simply left banging the door shut and then formed his own party, Kadima (lit. Forward).

Sharon’s party was expected to win the early 2006 elections, but the man wasn’t destined to see it. He suffered a stroke in early January 2006 and had been in a coma for the next eight years. His post was happily taken over by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, although he would lack the predecessor’s determination and resolution.

In the end, there emerged a political gap in the Gaza Strip that was quickly filled in by Hamas radicals. Their governance shortly boiled down to gunfire and home-made rockets fired at the Israeli border towns. Figuratively speaking, this gunfire killed the Olmert administration first and then the Kadima Party.

Ariel Sharon did not hate the Palestinians so much he wanted to have them all dead, and nor was he fraught with the idea of Great Israel. The man must also have felt no responsibility for the Palestinian refugees or any civilians who felt prey to combat actions. Whenever he made a decision, he did so proceeding from his understanding of what was necessary for Israel and its national security.

His life support system was cut off on January 2, at the Sheba Medical Center, as formally requested by his sons Gilad and Omri. The man, who had traveled all the way from special antiterrorist unit commander to prime minister, was pronounced dead on January 11, 2014.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said he was a true patriot. That was why so many people came to pay their final respects. He was a definitely divisive personality, but no one could decline his role in the history of Israel.

By Yurii RAIKHEL
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