Throughout the hespeidim and hagiographies of Arik Sharon’s life, there is the constant thread of his personal self-contradictions and his polarizing personality. Sharon was a fighter, politician, statesman, farmer, father…
It seems the many facets of Sharon’s life presented everyone with an aspect to admire and conversely revile. No more profound example of this was the perhaps greatest dichotomy of his life: being the greatest builder in the land of Israel since King Herod 2,000 years ago and later the man who was personally involved in the removal of thousands of Jews from their homes, first in the settlement of Yamit in the Sinai, and then in his infamous Unilateral Disengagement plan which expelled 10,000 Jews from their homes in Gaza, on the day after Tishah B’Av in 2005.
Sharon recognized that it was impossible to negotiate a peace agreement of any size with the Palestinians as no peace movement existed among themselves. Sharon offered the positive spin that “it is out of strength and not weakness that we are taking this step.”
Thus the Disengagement was born. And a historic birth it was. For the first time in Israel’s history, Israel’s army which Sharon had led to glory against Arab armies was now massed to evict Jewish residents. In effect, Ariel Sharon, the lion whose fame was based on being relentless in battle, arguably Israel’s greatest general, the military leader personally responsible for turning the tide in Israel’s wars against Arab enemies and terrorists, became the political leader who, in peace, was the one devising and implementing the Unilateral Disengagement Plan.
Ironically, the withdrawal failed to achieve the objectives of a peaceful southwestern front and to end Israel’s legal responsibility as an occupying power in Gaza because in the opinion of foreign observers such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and other legal experts, the Palestinian Authority in Gaza did not have sufficient control of the area at that time. So, Israel got the worst of both worlds: It retained control over Gaza’s borders, airspace, coastline, infrastructure, power, import-exports, etc., and in return received destabilized safety and security within the range of the tens of thousands of projectiles sent as “imports” to Israel since 2005.
At the time of the Gaza pull-back in 2005, Prime Minister Arik Sharon faced great opposition in his own Likud Party, but he and his allies (Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni) claimed that he would not initiate a withdrawal without putting the matter to an intra-Likud vote.
Sharon lost the vote by a landslide both at the Likud convention and then before the entire Likud Party rank and file.
Rather than accept the results of the vote he himself had initiated, Sharon established his own political party, Kadima, which ironically enough means “Forward!” in Hebrew. Kadima, a party built on the platform of retreat from Gaza, is a gem of Orwellian “doublespeak.”
Needless to say, after Sharon and his new party Kadima came to power, there was no national plebiscite on the question of Gaza, just bulldozed homes, greenhouses, and shuls — and of course 10,000 Jewish refugees.
It seems Sharon was willing to bend the truth in order to achieve his political objective.
Despite this tragedy, there was one argument that held some logic and hope. Numerous times, Sharon and Tzipi Livni declared that with Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza the Palestinians no longer had an excuse to attack Israel. Therefore, if an attack were to occur, Israel would re-enter Gaza and deliver a swift and decisive response. The response came years later, only after thousands of rockets and terror attacks, and Sharon himself was incapacitated, trapped in a coma.
My family and I live in Alon Shvut, a community in the Judean hills, built upon the very land that our forefathers walked and shepherded. I have two deeds to my home: one entered in the title registry, the other found in the Book of Bereishit. Our home and the homes of all the residents of Yehudah and Shomron are darkened by the shadow of Sharon’s decision to expel Jews from Gaza. Sharon argued that by implementing the disengagement plan he had given Israel the “diplomatic initiative.”
This “initiative” has led to two wars with the Palestinian leadership of Gaza, a reign of terror from the rain of missiles, sniper-fire which has killed Israeli soldiers and civilians, and a warren of tunnels designed to abduct Israeli soldiers to be ransomed for imprisoned Arab terrorists.
Once, Sharon was my hero; strong and fearless, a legend; this Sharon I would lionize in death. After the Machiavellian implementation of the Gaza Disengagement Plan through the cynical abuse of democratic processes and the precedent it set, I cannot laud him in death.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.