Ron Weiser remembers Sharon

January 14, 2014 by Ron Weiser
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There will be a lot written about Ariel Sharon z”l and I would be a little sceptical of those critics who describe his life in terms of sudden changes or ideological summersaults, which in my view says more about those authors than of their understanding of Ariel Sharon and indeed of Israel.

Ariel Sharon with members of the Australian jewish community

Ariel Sharon with members of the Australian jewish community

 

Many words will be used such as “controversial” and “flawed”.

First and foremost Ariel Sharon was a leader – and he was a leader for around 60 years. And a human being.

Now if you factor in that leaders are risk takers and innovators – indeed the very qualities lauded of Israelis today in books such as “Start Up Nation” – and that the area is the Middle East and that the task was building a Nation – then over such a long period of time it is inevitable that some mistakes will be made and errors of judgement will have occurred.

I would however argue that although much maligned, he was less flawed than any other comparable leader in Israel – or elsewhere.

Of course some people will shout “Sabra and Shatilla” amongst other things. I would only note that the Kahan Commission of Inquiry chaired by the President of the Israeli Supreme Court found that no Israeli was directly responsible for the massacre.

Sharon was severely reprimanded for not anticipating that the Christian Phalangists would massacre the Moslems.

How many in the western media et al turned that into Sharon’s alleged reputation as a “war criminal” and demonised him in such a way that coloured many erstwhile Israel supporters’ point of view, is a matter for those who study distortions of historical fact.

Sharon was not a follower of Jabotinsky, he came from the so called “left”.

And he was certainly never a territorialist for the sake of territory.

He was a Jewish State firster and security firster.

Sharon was a territorialist for the sake of security, territory was a means to an end.

For Sharon demography was also a major factor in security.

The critical point in understanding him and in understanding Israel is that his overall strategy never varied over his entire life. The strategy remained consistent.

Ariel Sharon talking with Ron Weiser

Ariel Sharon talking with Ron Weiser

What changed were the tactics needed – as he saw it – to bring about the Jewish State and to maintain her security.

Begin, as did Sharon, saw greater security in a peace treaty with Egypt than in keeping Yamit – and that was back in 1982 when Sharon as a Minister in the Government used high pressure water hoses to remove the Jewish settlers from Yamit.

Late in the year 2000, I gave a speech at the NSW Board of Deputies plenum which I titled – “Sharon the Left Winger and Peres the Right Winger”.

I stated that if elected in 2001 Sharon would take Israel out of Gaza.

The Disengagement from Gaza in 2005 was a policy entirely in keeping with the central policy of the short lived political party (Shlomzion) founded by Sharon in 1977, and with his actions in 1982 at Yamit for example, more than 20 years before the Gaza Disengagement.

In 2001, with the Likud only holding 19 out of 120 seats in the Knesset, and with Netanyahu refusing to return to the Likud leadership because he saw it as an impossible situation to run the country with only 19 seats, Ariel Sharon stepped forward under the direct election system and won one of the most decisive wins in any democratic election anywhere in the world, winning over 62% of the vote.

He proved that even with only 19 seats a strong and respected leader could lead a very stable and powerful government.

Sharon deeply damaged the Labor Party at the time with his divide and conquer policy of bringing his old friend Peres into the Government as Foreign Minister – and 13 years later Labor is still struggling to recover from that split between old Labor and the up and coming leadership at the time.

In 2003 Sharon went back to the electorate under a full parliamentary vote and once again received an overwhelming  mandate and it should be noted, left the Haredi parties out of the government coalition.

In these years he showed what a remarkable politician he had become.

His life of ups and downs, his heroic struggles, his rare mistakes were simply a reflection of the history of Israel – and people were willing to follow him all through his life.

Soldiers volunteered for the units he led in the army, even though his units suffered the highest casualty rates – because they were always in the vanguard and in the riskiest situations.

Almost against the (mis)understanding of his history, and against the (mis) understanding of many outside of Israel – Sharon had become the consensus man.

My greatest disappointment in the early 2000’s  was to see some local Jewish communal leaders and educators try to overlook this, as they were befuddled by it.

The Jewish News itself brought out an editorial titled “Mr Sharafat” calling Sharon and Arafat Siamese twins. In my opinion that was the lowest point for the AJN over my decades of activity in our community.

And some of our strongest supporters in the general community till Sharon’s election, particularly in the Labor Party, turned away from us.

Jewish State firsters – that is the vast majority of the citizens of Israel – understood that risks were necessary and believed that the legendary soldier would have the most comprehensive understanding of how to achieve the united goal with the best, or if you prefer, the least worst security outcome.

Put simply, the people trusted Sharon in his final active 5 years, with their future safety and in having an understanding of Israel’s true core needs.

Although of European background it is also important to remember that he more than just about any other Israeli leader, understood the Arab People and their mentality.

And they understood him, respected him and feared him.

His positive relations with Mubarak and King Hussein are well documented.

Sharon knew that Arafat not only did not believe in democracy, but did not even understand it and saw it as a weakness to be exploited.

When Sharon wanted to send a message to Arafat, he knew that sending an Israeli Minister would not be taken seriously by Arafat who himself did not take any of his own “Ministers” seriously.

So, although an unpopular move at home, Sharon sent his son Omri. Like a king sending his son, Arafat understood that such a messenger was to be taken seriously.

Sharon also demonstrated the enduring message of history – only the “right wing” can make peace – only the “right wing” can cede territory – and the only the “right wing” can make far reaching concessions on security.

As an aside, like it or not, Lieberman fulfils that role today, (and since Sharon’s ill health) of the “pragmatic right winger”. The Jewish State firster with security and not territory as the prime concern. Albeit with an even greater emphasis on demography leading to his willingness to cede more territory than most of those regarded as being to his “left”.

On the personal level it was my privilege to lead meetings of Australian Jewry with Sharon as Prime Minister on a number of occasions.

One of the paradoxical things about him was that whilst seemingly lacking in charisma in the media, he was extremely charismatic and very charming in person.  In his time as Prime Minister descriptive terms of him moved from the “bulldozer” to the “grandfather”, something he looked the part for as well.

What was apparent at each and every meeting was his love of Israel, his dedication to her and her people and now also to Jewish continuity outside of Israel, whilst he always fiercely promoted aliyah as the best form of Jewish continuity.

MASA, the project to provide funding for longer term programmes in Israel, was a partnership between Sharon and the Jewish Agency.

And it was a meeting about MASA that was my last personal meeting with Sharon in 2005, even whilst he had arguably bigger issues to deal with in light of the Disengagement from Gaza.

However it was at an earlier meeting with a larger delegation from Israel that I had some of my funnier moments.

Prior to that meeting I had requested a private audience with Sharon to explain to him who he was about to meet and what the major issues were likely to be.

Two of us went into his private office and he welcomed us but had a 3rd Australian’s name on his sheet – someone who in fact had missed his plane and was not in attendance.

Sharon turned to a man standing behind us and also welcomed him as if he was the 3rd Australian, but we knew that the man standing there was not from Australia.

In Hebrew, the man told Sharon that he was not that person.

“Who are you?” asked Sharon.

“I am your advisor” the man replied.

“My advisor??? On what??? Since when?????”

“I have been your advisor for 6 weeks” the man replied “but until now have not had the opportunity to meet with you”.

Moments like these…………….

One of my favourite personal stories relates to a photo of myself whispering in Sharon’s ear.

What could it have been, what in depth level of analysis and comment?

So, this very same new advisor now exercised his newfound access via the Australian delegation, to tell me that Sharon had to conclude the meeting and move on to his next engagement.

I leaned over and said as much to Sharon.

All he could say was ma, ma? (what, what)?

So I got redder and redder and spoke louder and louder – then he turned to me and said that he was almost completely deaf in that ear from firing mortars in his earlier days.

He then asked the group if they wanted the meeting to continue, they did – and so it did – I have no idea who we had kept waiting for that extra 30 minutes, but Sharon really seemed to enjoy it all and of course the whole delegation lapped it up.

When Sharon was elected in 2001, there was a type of disengagement from Israel by large sections of Australian Jewry who saw what they viewed as an Israel that had lost its way.

In reality, it was they who misunderstood Israel.

At the height of the Intifada in 2002 we held the largest rally of its kind ever in Australian Jewish history in support of Israel at Wynyard Park in Sydney – and that was a sort of a turning point.

Then the Disengagement from Gaza in 2005 brought people who had estranged themselves from Israel to better understand that Israel and Arik Sharon were sincere about trying, hoping to achieve some sort of peace, and willing to take grave risks with security as well as to constantly show our friends that we are not the obstacle to a resolution of the conflict.

Even with those risks often seeming out of all proportion to the immediate potential gain.

And this was simultaneous to now alienating some in the “religious right” who felt betrayed by a man and a people they had assessed wrongly.

At the end of the day Sharon was a true leader of Israel and the Jewish People, a true hero, he deserves our respect and our thanks, and our gratitude for an extraordinary life spent in the service of Am Yisrael, and he deserves to finally be able to rest – baruch dayan emet.

Ron Weiser spoke on Sharon on Sydney’s 2-GB

Ron Weiser is the Immediate Past President of the Zionist Federation of Australia and Hon Life President of the Zionist Council of NSW.

Comments

9 Responses to “Ron Weiser remembers Sharon”
  1. Larry Stillman says:

    Your interpretation of what was said by the Kahan Commission in no uncertain terms, Ron Weiser, is a lawyer’s trick. This is what they said, again — Sharon –“responsibility is to be imputed to the Minister of Defense for having disregarded the danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps, and having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps. ”

    You cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim on the one hand the “Kahan Commission of Inquiry chaired by the President of the Israeli Supreme Court found that no Israeli was directly responsible for the massacre.”. It clearly held him responsible in the same way that any senior official is held responsible for acts on his/her watch. You may not have pulled the trigger, but you let it happen and you can be very close to that trigger. There is a very fine line between the two of course, but you can’t pretend that Sharon, was not involved.

    How close was Sharon to the trigger?, You have ignored recent documentary evidence published by the NY Times they should actually look at some with recently released Israel State Archives classified documents- Cabinet papers of meetings between Sharon, other high up Israelis and the Americans. The statements are there. It is a record of conversation. Bibi was also there in a junior capacity as well. It is clear that Sharon was in it up to his neck, there was plenty of intelligence to that people including he knew what was going on, and the Americans accused the Israelis of deliberately leading them astray.

    These documents only confirm what others such as Amnon Kapeliouk who reported on the matter 30 years ago said at the time about Sharon’s involvement and the intelligence he was receiving and his encouragement and non-interference with the Phalange.

    In this regard, Sharon, who thought he could also rule Lebanon by proxy, should be condemned.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/opinion/a-preventable-massacre.html

    • Paul Winter says:

      I never thought that I would thank you twice, Larry, but your referrences again assist me to rebutt your assertions. The expert on whose article you base your claim of Sharon’s culpability, Amnon Kapeliouk, was a friend of Yasser Arafat and during the 1982 Lebanon War interviewed that terrorist in Lebanon. Kapeliouk was also a co-founder of B’Tzelem the so-called human rights group (an NIF fundee) which routinely smears Israel with unsubstantiated claims, much like Breaking the Silence (also NIF funded).

      The link to the NY Times shows that the opinion piece was written by one Seth Anziska, a doctoral student at Columbia University. This immediately raises several problems. The NY Times is not a source upon which anyone can rely where it concerns Israel. Columbia Uni employed orientalist Edward Said, Arafat’s advisor and later critic for giving up revolution for the salami slicing method of destroying Israel. Said has been replaced by Rashid Khalidi, an Islamist from Chicago, where he was Obama’s friend and mentor. Columbia also appointed some lady with no claim to scholarship, but unmatchable anti-Israel credentials.

      Anziska’s article refers to declassified documents and makes much of recorded chit-chat and the bullying by Sharon. When Anziska selectively quotes from documents which are not presented, I worry about the quality of his eventual thesis. I worry even more that a series of events is constructed and that there is not a word about the USA’s double dealing in saving the bacon of abu Amr and his merry band of cut-throats by shipping them to Tunisia, to murder another day. I am also concerned that there is not a word about Bashir Gemayal’s assassination and how it might have just slightly piqued the Phalange. The article is all about recriminations and how Sharon bullied and misled the trusting and oh so supportive Americans. And Anziska is shtun about the Kahan Commission which clearly stated that the IDF was NOT – repeat NOT!!! – responsible for the Arab on Arab butchery.

      So, Larry, thanks again. The sources you quote are neither reputable, nor scholarly. They merely support your anti-Israel obsession. And one more thing, no country other than Israel, would have done a hatchet job on one of its own for an atrocity committed by an ally. The USA didn’t condemn the South Vietnamese for their dirty deeds or those of the Iraqis or the Afghans. Australia tries ADF personnel for not being squeeky clean in a dirty war, but ignores Afghan on Afghan atrocities and that of Obama’s conferees, the Talibaan. But Israel? Ahh, that’s another story.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Yet, Paul, Larry is reffering strictly to the text of the Kahan Commission. In it Sharon is held responsible for the attacks perpetrated by the Phalangists.
        Larry is not being disinigenuous in regards to the “findings” of the Committe. The “findings” as such, however, need to be appreciated from ethical stands consistent with the VITAL considerations of the Jewish entity in the conflict,Israel.
        Upholding moral standards is the most important, repeat, VITAL issue when we argue in favour of Israel. Any argument that should be in itslef valid must not fail any ethical stringencies. Or so would seem !!!!
        In ANY conflict, armed included, conduct cannot be expected to observe the pure, immaculate PROCLAIMED principles. The ethical IMPOSITIONS conceived by “objective” authorities have the value of desiderata to such an untennable extent that in ANY conflcitual events NO party EVER was found NOT to transgress them.
        The Court was UNREALISTICALLY adjudecating from unfair stances. Israel, Sharon in particular, was castigated from the pulpits of a “perfection” humanly never proven, hence unrealistically expected.
        The main reason Larry ellicits the findings, correctly reproduced, is because he insists on the RIGHTFULL stance of the palestininas. Larry dwells with a passion of the most extremme bias in favour of the worst perpetrators of terror since the WWII, the paelstininas.
        We must engage a very minute discussion on the sense, the meaning of the term “attrocities” as intimately related to human nature and human nature’s propensity for EQUITY, some term “revenge”, some natural reaction, some term it natural justice. To be a bit more liberal in interpretation, “natural” justice can be seen as justice that takes place outdoors, in the middle of nature, away from the incorsetation of principles, some highly commedable by just as highly improbable to be expected to function in all circumstances.
        I am not pleading for the legitimacy of crime, but for the circumstantial definition of it or exclusion of its meanings.
        To this extent, Sharon’s indictment was vindicated by the subsequent approval of his character as leader of the same Nation, a people found incessantly at the criminal whims of the victims of his “crimes”.
        To this extent, Larry is on the wrong side of the Jewish argument, respective ethics notwithsatnding.

        • Otto Waldmann says:

          Let’s assume, however, that Larry Stillman and his ideological mates only want to right the wrongs of a Jew with important responsibilities, a national leader no less. In principle we are deling here with a commendable effort in making sure that Jews are beyond any possible opprobium for theur actions. Most laudable if the guardians of humanity as we know it ( and I mean we, Jews DO know it )would be at least pretending that they can identify the same “transgression” at those whose chief aim is to destroy ( hasvsholem) the entire Jewish fold, Sharons or not, Larry’s beloved, inocent, peaceful adorable palestinians and their most willing cohorts.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    But Larry Stillman is right.
    All the findings by a Jewish committee against other Jews are perfectly consistent with our Laws, our received principles of existence. The very findings are the very pride of our ethics and those are not just “written” ethics but principles by which we must function, lest our own survival, our own identity would perish, G-d forbid !

    The destruction of the same people expected to obey those Laws is not ONLY possible by their own transgressions. This Larry Stillman would know, or should know.
    Considering that the Phalangists were not the product of our making, but the sons of the hated by the Masters of Hate, the fight of the others was the business of their own conception, the products of a world we would like and NEED to be ridden of. Evil shall be bankcrupt when out of customers, but still “alive’ in his solitude as a valuable reminder that “it” could happen again. Meanwhile those “customers” of hate should be left to their own destructive devices.
    Here Larry Stillman sides with Evil and SELFdestructive devices, as he has been doing for so long and so not so impressively.
    Yes, there is such a thing called “clean hands” and, more so, a clean conscience. Ariel Sharon, most definitely, had one !!!

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    How hard it must be for all of you to be in a worldwide fishpond with such historical lions of Israel under scrutiny.
    Well the homeland is still here, with help of those commissioned to protect you all, and protect you they will.

  4. Larry Stillman says:

    This commentary is disingenuous on so many levels, but I will take up only one point and that is Sharon’s responsibility for what happened in Sabra and Shatila — and remember that Israel had responsibilities under international law to protect civilians. It is also clear, despite spin to the contrary, that Israeli military and intelligence personnel knew very well what was going on and Sharon was engaged in nudge nudge wink wink conversations with the Phalange.

    But I will only quote from the Kahan Commission to put to rest the fib that Sharon bore no responsibility. Didn’t the Kahan report go deep enough–if you look at it, they interviewed a host of Mossad and other people who knew what was going on?

    The Commission also had a very narrow definition of responsibility –it was perpetration, not causal responsibility which thereby let many others off the hook.

    The government was held indirectly responsible by Kahan, but Sharon, RESPONSIBLE “for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge when he approved the entry of the Phalangists into the camps as well as not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed”.

    I quote from the Kahan commission (it is one long webpage) http://www.mfa.gov.il/…/104%20report%20of%20the…:

    “104. Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the events at the refugee camps in Beirut, 8 February 1983.

    The Commission determined that the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla was carried out by a Phalangist unit, acting on its own but its entry was known to Israel. No Israeli was directly responsible for the events which occurred in the camps. But the Commission asserted that Israel had indirect responsibility for the massacre since the I.D.F. held the area, Mr. Begin was found responsible for not exercising greater involvement and awareness in the matter of introducing the Phalangists into the camps. Mr. Sharon was found responsible for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge when he approved the entry of the Phalangists into the camps as well as not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed. Mr. Shamir erred by not taking action after being alerted by communications Minister Zippori. Chief of Staff Eitan did not give the appropriate orders to prevent the massacre. The Commission recommended that the Defense Minister resign, that the Director of Military Intelligence not continue in his post and other senior officers be removed.

    Further on— “It is our view that responsibility is to be imputed to the Minister of Defense for having disregarded the danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps, and having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps. In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the Minister of Defense for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of massacre as a condition for the Phalangists’ entry into the camps. These blunders constitute the non-fulfillment of a duty with which the Defense Minister was charged.”

    • Paul Winter says:

      Thanks for the quote Larry: “The Commission determined that the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla was carried out by a Phalangist unit, acting on its own…”. Now it is fine that the IDF was in charge, but the Phalange was not under the control of the IDF, it was an independent force fighting the Palestinian government in the government of Lebanon.

      It seems to me that the Kahaan Commission was a tad too precious in its mea culpas and in its condemnations. If you read your quote, Larry, you would note that it explicitly states that the IDF was NOT responsible for the massacre.

      Should the IDF and Sharon have had the foresight that Arabs would behave like Arabs – so well more recently displayed in Iraq and Syria – particularly after Bashir Gemayal’s assassination? Perhaps. But that is wisdom in hindsight. And what should the IDF have done if the Phalange had insisted on entry into the camps? Had a battle with it is ally?

      But Larry, two things really get up my nose. The first thing is that as a Jew you spout the mohammedan line and show as little respect for the dead as the “Palestinians”. The second is that Sharon the Israeli Jew is condemned for the massacre by the selectively sensitive, selectively outraged international leftist community which has not a word of condemnation for those Arabs who butchered their brother and sisters. And the word for condemning the Jew for the sins committed by non-Jews is: antisemitism.

    • Ron Weiser says:

      I would also like to thank Larry for his quotes in backing up exactly what I wrote in regards to Sabra and Shatilla.

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