"Nothing will stop me. Nobody can shackle my hands and feet," Sharon shouted at a recent cabinet meeting. He was responding to Labor and Social Affairs Minister (National Religious Party) Zevulun Orlev's question, why Sharon was planning to present the Gaza disengagement timetable to Likud ministers alone, rather than to all members of his cabinet. Sharon also threatened, "There will be disengagement, in this government or in another government that I establish."
Israel today has it's own Napoleon...
But, at least Napoleon built an empire for the glory of France; Ariel Sharon seems to be working hard for the Palestinians. It's not so dissimilar to Shimon Peres's earlier global shnoring - fund raising - for Palestine. What Arafat couldn't get earlier Israeli prime ministers to agree to do - kick Jews out of their homes - even under Clintonian and EU pressure; even with the Oslo War foisted on Israel, Arik - Sharon's nickname - is willing to do unilaterally, i.e. without receiving any quid-pro-quo from the Palestinian Authority.
Let's try to put this into Jewish cultural and historical context.
In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of 1st Kings, ch. 21, there's a story about the wicked idol-worshipping Achav son of Omri, Ahab in common English. He was the king of Israel (the northern kingdom as opposed to the southern kingdom of Judah). King Achav wanted to purchase a vineyard that was close to his palace, but the owner Navot, wouldn't sell it to him or even trade up for a better field elsewhere. Achav lusted for the field, and was quite distraught over Navot's unwillingness to sell it to him. But, Achav's - even more evil - wife Jezebel came up with a solution. She sent out letters with her husband's - the king's - forged signature to the elders of Navot's hometown with a plan to frame Navot for blasphemy and cursing the king. The elders carried out the plan, killed Navot, and when Jezebel informed Achav of Navot's death, Achav took possession of "his" vineyard. When the prophet Eliyahu - Elijah - heard of this, he asked Achav - in G-D's name - "Have you murdered and inherited also?" Eliyahu then told Achav G-D's punishment, "In the place that the dog's licked Navot's blood, so too, shall they lick yours."
The rabbis of the Talmud learned several lessons from these stories about Achav and his family. Regarding Achav's father Omri - whom the bible tells us "did evil in the eyes of the L-RD and was worse that all who went before him" - R. Yochanan asked, "In what merit did Omri deserve kingship?" He answered, "Because he built a city Shomron - Samaria - in the Land of Israel" (Sanhedrin 102b).
About Achav himself - although he was personally very sinful - the rabbis point out that during his rule, all the soldiers went out to fight their enemies and returned safely, but in King David's time many fell in battle. They asked why, and answered, that in Achav's army there great unity of purpose, but in David's army - although David was very righteous - many soldiers spoke Lashon HaRa - slandered each other - there was hatred and disunity (Midrash Tanchuma, Chukat 4).
Even though Achav was a "secular Zionist nationalist," who did not follow G-D's Torah, because his family settled the land, because they had focus, unity, and purpose, to achieve national goals, they were victorious in battle, and brought honor to the Kingdom of Israel.
There are some interesting parallels between Ariel Sharon and these stories. Sharon's son's name is Omri. And as the former chief advocate for Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria - the West Bank - and Gaza, one can say, in this "merit" did Sharon deserve to be prime minister. Yet something "evil" has happened to Sharon, and now he plans to expel these Jews and bulldoze their homes - just like his other nickname - the bulldozer. Sharon seems to "lust" over the destruction of Jewish communities in Gaza, in a way, reminiscent of Achav's lust for Navot's vineyard.
Sharon too, was once a "secular Zionist nationalist," who with purpose - the defense of the Jews in Israel - fought successfully in the famed paratroop 101 brigade and several wars. He too, "built many cities in Israel." Yet today, he lacks resolve to fight the enemies of the nation, putting all his energies into destroying Jewish communities, "Nothing will stop me...There will be disengagement, in this government or in another government that I establish," he bellows.
And while fighting Arab armies, Arab irregulars and terrorists, was always a unifying activity, destroying Jewish homes and lives, and giving away parts of the Jewish people's patrimony, the "Promised Land," certainly is anything but unifying.
When Zevulun Orlev called for a national referendum on the disengagement plan at that recent cabinet meeting, Sharon asked whether Orlev was sure he wanted a referendum. Orlev answered, that it was the only way to prevent a civil war. And there has been much talk recently in Israel of civil war. Proof, that Sharon's policies are dividing the country rather than unifying it.
One of the many side issues of the disengagement plan has been whether the Israeli army or Israeli police will expel the Jewish settlers. Public Security Minister Tzachi HaNegbi, who is responsible for overseeing the police, feels it should be the army's job, while Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says that though the army will oversee the work, the police should be the ones to actually drag the residents from their homes. Because the Israeli Army is based on a universal draft, this has led to a public debate, with many people complaining of the "politicization" of the army, if it carries out the expulsions. Many people argue, the army should be fighting Israel's enemies, not it's own citizens. Rabbis have called on soldiers to disregard orders and refuse to participate in the evacuation.
During the cabinet meeting, Sharon accused one of his ministers of "false patriotism". In the end, the cabinet voted 6-2, to have the police carry out the expulsions, while the army provides general security, and later destroys the properties. Yet, when Police Chief Moshe Karadi heard of the cabinet decision, he responded, that it would be "virtually impossible" for the police to evacuate the settlers, but then added, the police would carry out whatever mission it was assigned. Karadi admitted that regular police duties would suffer if officers had to evacuate settlers instead (What if there are suicide terror attacks at the same time?), but said, he was not aware of any officers' intention to refuse the assignment, something that would not be tolerated, he insisted.
Faced with an intractable enemy from without, the so-called Palestinians, and the prospect of multi-generational warfare with them, the last thing Ariel Sharon wants to do is bring disunity to the nation. Whether it's his own "lust" to take that which is not his, like Achav, that drives him to expel Jews from their homes, or simply by mimicking King David's period of disunity, Sharon might just bring the tragedy of many "fallen in battle," home to Israel.
Sharon, stop your dictatorial disengagement farce now...
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at:
(c) 2004/5764 Pasko