This is a translation of an article published in Izvestia, a pro-Kremlin publication, praising Ariel Sharon and drawing parallel’s between what happened in Gaza and what could happen in the Caucasus if Russia should withdraw. — Ed.
The passing of Ariel Sharon came as an inevitable tragic outcome after eight years in which he was unconscious. For the last eight years, only Israeli medical equipment preserved the general’s signs of life.
Sharon will go down in history as a brave warrior, severely wounded near Latruna, who by a miracle survived the heavy battles of 1948.
It can be said with confidence that Sharon was one of the major commanders of the 20th century. His brilliant plan to land forces on the west bank of the Suez Canal with the ensuing encirclement of the Third Egyptian Army guaranteed Israel victory in the war of 1973. Sharon himself fearlessly led the soldiers to victory, ignoring the orders of higher-ups to delay the risky operation.
Everything in life came hard to him. Inside the army, he was disliked for excessive independence, and in political circles, it was customary to view him as an “outsider.” A friend of Ariel Sharon’s, the famous publicist Uri Dan, loved to repeat, “Whoever didn’t want Sharon in the post of chief of the General Staff got him as defense minister. And whoever doesn’t want to see him as defense minister will see him as the head of state.”
And truly, Sharon traversed the long path from private to prime minister, thanks to his stubbornness and indisputable talents.
I was introduced to Sharon by his closest friend, Lt. Col. Shlomo Baum. Together they created the legendary anti-terrorist Division 101, which operated in the early 1950s. It was at that time that the simple idea was instilled into the consciousness of the Israeli military command that with such a scant territory of its own, Israel must fight battles with the enemy at some distance from its borders.
Meetings of the three of us took place during the period 1992-1995, when Sharon was deputy of the Knesset from the opposition. This was a time of massive popular resistance to the agreements with Arafat, which entailed an unprecedented wave of terror. Ariel Sharon was then a staunch opponent of the American “peace initiatives.”
In those years, he did not occupy any important government post and was free for reminiscences and ideological debates. Shlomo Baum tried to push him toward more decisive and radical actions of protest against Rabin’s policy. Sharon usually listened attentively to his old friend, agreeing with him in substance, but refrained from any harsh forms of resistance to the Washington line.
Ariel Sharon was not a thick-skinned and inflexible person. He was hated by many his whole life, and he very much wanted to be liked by the world at least in his old age. I recall how he spoke with such pain about the campaign against him in the Western and American press after the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Lebanese camps of Sabra and Shatila, which was staged by the Christian Phalangists.
How many times he reiterated and exclaimed that everyone around knew the truth, after all. Everyone around knew that he had not only not planned anything of the sort, but did not possess any information and did not even suppose that his Christian allies could perpetrate such a thing.
Sharon was offended to the depth of his soul. Like a child.
Raised on Russian culture and especially appreciating the poetry of Lermontov and Yesenin in the original, General Sharon was very sentimental when the question came up of Russia. It was no accident that immediately after the Lebanese war in 1982, Sharon came out with an open appeal to Soviet leaders: “We have something to talk about.” Ten years afterward he recalled how he had not been honored with a reply, with a sense of regret for the lost opportunity.
Shlomo Baum told me then, “If the Russians had realized then what really threatens them, and hastened with the correct conclusions, the collapse of the USSR could have been prevented.” Sharon nodded approvingly and added, “Did they really not understand that it would not end with the fall of the USSR, but the fire of separatism would go through all the problematic regions?”
Sharon was distinguished by a global geopolitical vision when it came to analysis. With his knowledge, a detailed analytical memo was prepared then on behalf of Shlomo Baum’s Institute for Strategic Studies, which was transmitted by me to the Russian leadership. The main topic of the memo was an offer to Russia of a strategic initiative – the signing of an alliance between Jerusalem and Teheran under the aegis of Moscow. We can confidently say that the advance of such an initiative at that time could have rid the world of many troubles today.
The American hegemony in the world provoked alarm in him. He expected treachery and dirty tricks. But when the hour of trial came, his need to be liked by the Americans and the West on the whole prevailed over all his other habits and feelings.
Long before his final departure from life, Sharon announced a plan to withdraw the army from the Gaza sector and about the liquidation of the Jewish settlements there. This happened in 2005 when not the Roman legionnaires, but Israeli soldiers, carried out the forcible expulsion of 8,000 settlers on Sharon’s orders.
He thought the Americans would appreciate his resolve to follow their diktat. But no one called him a peace-maker, nobody bothered to award him a Nobel Peace prize.
The Arabs of Gaza disappointed him even more. It would seem that they had got everything they had fought for. The last withdrawal of the Israeli military contingent, the full liquidation of the settlements. Gaza = Judenfrei.
However, after the unilateral withdrawal of settlements it was hardly songs of peace that were heard.
The massive shelling of the south of Israel and the retaliatory military actions by Israel is all the result of the greatest miscalculation of Ariel Sharon. Imagine how many curses of him were uttered by the residents of the south of the State of Israel in response to the shelling from Gaza…
Sharon lay in a coma, rockets flew from Gaza, and thousands of people cursed their best warrior.
It was an Israeli tragedy.
It must be added that the experience of Israel must be attentively studied by Russian experts and leaders. Obviously, there are no such things as complete analogies, but we would advise the advocates of a Russian withdrawal from the Caucasus region to look at what the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza led to.
By his example, Sharon demonstrated that even the best of the best warriors turns out to be weak in politics if he does not have a wise man or a prophet next to him.
And one more thing – you cannot treat the destruction of the settlements in the Holy Land so casually. That ended badly for both Itzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon. The refined energy of the Holy Land requires a particular caution.