People in Israel and abroad, who believe that I am somewhat of an expert on Sharon, have asked me how to deal with him. Here are some practical suggestions:
1. Don’t underrate him. That is the first rule. Over the course of time, many have made that mistake and paid for it dearly. That is what happened, recently, to the two twin wizards, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Sharon does not belong in the same league as Haim Ramon and he is not a Barak look-alike. He belongs in another league altogether.
2. He will not be a primus inter pares. In theory, cabinet ministers are equal, the Prime Minister being only the first among them. In the UK and other countries, the chief of the government is indeed called so: Prime Minister or First Minister. This principle was undermined in Israel, when the law for the direct election of the Prime Minister was enacted. Some believe that the wheel can be turned back by the annulment of that law. All this does not concern Sharon. Even if he were merely the Minister for Tourism, he would have been the dominant figure in the government, because of his intrinsic weight. For example, he never gives up on a matter that is important to him. When the government rejects his proposal, he puts it on the agenda again and again, in one form or another, until the composition of the meeting is right and his proposal is accepted. Now, as a Prime Minister elected directly by a crushing majority, his standing will be even higher. The composition of the government itself is not really important – it will approve everything he wants.
3. Don’t pay attention to what he says, pay attention only to what he does. Sharon does not tell the truth, nor does he lie. As Voltaire said, he uses words only to hide his thoughts. When he prepares for war, he speaks of peace. The words serve to make the listener relax, put him to sleep, get him confused, mislead him, deceive him, divert his attention. According to the biblical injunction: “And with ruses make war.” (So says the Hebrew original.) Ben-Gurion wrote about him: “If he would get rid of his faults, such as not telling the truthéhe would be an exemplary military leader.” At another time Ben-Gurion asked him if he had weaned himself from “telling untruths”. Many people believe that he did not tell Menachem Begin the truth, either. All this was to obtain their approval for operations he wanted to undertake.
4. How will he operate? The center of gravity will shift from the television studios to “Sycamores Farm”, his private estate. This is, for the time being, the end of the era when television displaced the Knesset and the parties as the sole political arena. Most work will be done in private conversations between Sharon and his assistants and by the transmission of his orders.
5. What is his real world-view? Sharon believes in the classical Jewish-Zionist premises. His world is divided between Jews and Goyim (non-Jews), all Goyim being potential enemies. Jews are allowed to use all possible means available, otherwise the Goyim will destroy them. Universal values are nonsense. It’s us against all of them, all of them against us. As a popular Israeli song goes: “All the world is against us, but we don’t give a damn.” Or, to quote the Bible: “The people shall dwell alone” (Numbers 23,9).
6. What is his Zionist outlook? Sharon continues the classical line of Ben-Gurion, i.e. an ethnic Jewish state without fixed borders, that uses every opportunity to expand and settle. This outlook was expressed brilliantly by Moshe Dayan in a famous funeral speech after a friend was killed by Arabs: “Who are we that we should argue against their (the Arabs’) hatred? éBefore their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and the villages in which they and their forefathers have livedéWe are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and the cannon we cannot plant a tree and build a house. Let us not shrink back when we see the hatred fermenting an filling the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, who dwell all around us. Let us not avert our eyes, so that our hand shall not slip. This is the destiny of our generation, the choice of our life: to be prepared and armed, strong and tough, otherwise the sword will slip from our fist and our life will be snuffed out.” And, lest it be understood that this is the destiny of his generation only, Dayan added in another speech, at a meeting of young people on the Golan: “Let no Jew say: this is the end of the job. Let no man say: we are approaching the end of the way. No, on no accountéThis is a process that has gone on for a hundred years. We have to contribute our part, as much as possible, but not to say: here we are, we have finished.”
7. Can he make peace? The world always longs for the man of the Right who will make peace. That makes it easy, because the man of the Right will bring his camp with him, while the support of the Left is assured. (For the same reason, it is easier for a government of the Left to make war or break strikes.) The example of Charles de Gaulle causes people to think that a Rightist general is the ideal person to make peace. But Sharon is no de Gaulle. His mental world is quite different. However, he is quite capable of making a temporary agreement or a partial settlement, if that gives him an advantage in pursuing the war.
8. What is his principal aim? Since his aim is to expand the homogenous Jewish State and settle on the land, the enemy is the Palestinian people. Sharon will use every means – brute force, ruses, creating divisions é to break their resistance.
9. So what will he do? Nobody but he knows. He always has grand designs, which he is ready to put into effect when circumstances allow. They are always based on a simplistic perception, and therefore liable to flounder on the rock of reality. It is probable that he has not given up his plan of inviting the Palestinians to topple the King of Jordan and establish “Palestine” over there. If there were no settlements on the Golan Heights, he could offer the Syrians a separate peace, in order to outflank the Palestinians. He is toying with the idea of a grand alliance with Russia, especially if the Americans try to put pressure on him. Against the Americans he will use all possible ruses, so as to prevent them from sabotaging his plans.
10. Can his coalition partners divert him from his course? That is a ridiculous idea. The Labor party is joining him in a state of bankruptcy, he has a deep contempt for Shimon Peres. Between Sharon and Ze’evi there is no difference, save one: Sharon knows that the eviction of multitudes of Arabs is possible only in special circumstances, and until then it is better to keep quiet. He believes that Ze’evi’s frequent declarations about the “transfer” of Arabs are a big mistake.
11. Maybe he will change? A person like Sharon does not change. When it serves his aims, he can pretend to have changed, as he did in the last election campaign, when he depicted himself as the good old grand-father who loves children and sheep. His appearance as a heavy-set farmer aids him in this. But this is a ruse like all the others.