Gilad Sharon on His Father
Gilad, Ariel Sharon's youngest son, documents his father's life and times in the book Sharon. Having been a close confidant, Gilad was able to comb through his father's archives: personal notes, diaries, and correspondences, to name a few. The reader is able to gain insight into Sharon as a father, military hero, and prime minister. American Thinker was able to interview Gilad Sharon about his book and his father.
The reader quickly becomes aware that the author very much loves, respects, and reveres his dad. When asked about this, Gilad commented, "The personal side is the one I enjoyed writing the most about since the public was not exposed to this part of my dad. He was a close friend, warm, loving, with a great sense of humor. The world only saw my father's other side, the strong and dominant personality."
Regarding his father's health after his debilitating stroke suffered six years ago, Gilad acknowledged, as he has in the book, that he and his brother insisted on measures to keep his dad alive. It is obvious from his writings and interview that he maintains hope that his dad will recover. Today his father has "minimal consciousness. We hope for the best. When he sleeps, he sleeps. When he is awake, he looks at me. He moves his fingers when I ask him. He possibly watches TV. He has not lost a pound. You never know."
Some might think that the author's admiration for his dad would taint his recollections, but in actuality, Gilad provides an interesting perspective regarding events involving his father. For example, in the book, he describes Sharon's demeanor before a 1967 War battle thus: "G-d, what confidence, what icy calm the man possessed." The reader is able to understand why Sharon was a successful military leader: his calmness under fire, his skill in pushing his men to the peak of their capabilities, his ability to use the intelligence provided, and a familiarity of the terrain. The book delves into a very comprehensive description of Sharon's role in Israel's wars.
Why was Israel caught so off-guard by the Egyptian forces, and why did it take so long to win the 1973 Yom Kippur War? The book details how the IDF commanders, such as the Southern Command's chief military officer, Halm Bar-Lev, allowed petty politics, jealousy, and ineptness to cloud their judgment. Their refusal to accept Ariel Sharon's daring plan to cross the Suez Canal for a surprise counterattack against the Egyptian army was due to the "Command's reading of the situation, both stupid and unbearable. The Egyptians didn't understand what had happened ... and yet those critical hours, during which the surprise could be exploited, were spent, yet again, in a holding pattern."
When asked about these comments made in the book, Gilad replied that his father was right there on the battlefield with the soldiers, while the commanders were at a safe haven miles away. Furthermore, "this was a huge victory, but a bitter one. My dad understood we could have done it with [fewer] casualties and much quicker. Unfortunately, the political considerations affected the decision-making. Just before the war, my father founded the Likud Party, which challenged the Labor Party. The army was very influenced by the Labor Party."
Sharon was not a person to shy away from controversy. Although in the book Gilad hardly mentioned his father's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000, he was asked about it during the interview. This is one of the holiest sites for both Jews and Muslims, and Sharon was accused of purposely inflaming emotions to obstruct the peace talks. However, the Mitchell Report found that Sharon's visit did not cause the ensuing Second Intifada. Gilad emphasized during the interview that the Temple Mount visit, of which he was a part, "was not the first time my father went there. By going to the Temple Mount at that time, my father expressed his objection to Prime Minister Barak's plan, especially the concessions involving Jerusalem. Obviously, Israelis agreed with him because a few months later the public voted for my dad. He beat Barak by almost a two-to-one margin. The point he wanted to make was that Jews should be allowed to go there. Is it that the Arabs can go everywhere in Jerusalem and Jews can only go to certain places? Remember, the first time everyone could go to the Old City was after 1967, when Jerusalem became united under Israeli rule. The Palestinians used the terror attacks as an excuse. The real problem is that they never accepted our right to be here."
As prime minister, Ariel Sharon also had to make tough decisions, one of the greatest being the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Gilad appears to apologize for his father's actions instead of countering the critics who blamed Ariel Sharon for allowing Gaza to be controlled by Hamas, fracturing the Likud Party, and never achieving the international legitimacy he thought would be forthcoming. Elliott Abrams, President George W. Bush's Middle East adviser, told American Thinker that he agrees with Gilad's assessment since Israel had to spend "an enormous amount of energy to defend the 7,500 Israelis living there. He made largely a military judgment that I think was correct. On security questions, which were very fundamental for Sharon, he was very cold-blooded. It was very painful to him; yet, he did it because he believed it was in the best interests of the state. There is no question that he was wounded by some of the attacks by people who were his supporters. He was very much appreciative of what the settlers had done, going to Gaza when the State had asked and becoming Zionist heroes. Unfortunately, he did not communicate that better."
Gilad also talked about how deeply wounded his father was and explained that he founded the Kadima Party after he was pushed out of Likud because of the disengagement from Gaza. He refers to his father's actions as "an act of leadership, making a decision in the best interests for Israel. After withdrawing, we were able to act because we were no longer in control of that area."
Condoleezza Rice appears to have agreed with both opinions when she stated in her book, No Higher Honor, that Ariel Sharon talked about "painful sacrifices. He had not meant that just in the political sense. Those sacrifices were deeply personal for him[.] ... He seemed to embody the Israeli experience because, in truth, without toughness, perseverance, and even ruthlessness, Israel would have ceased to exist in a neighborhood bent on its destruction."
The most interesting part of the book is the author's recollections of his father's views about various leaders: Yasser Arafat, a habitual liar; Moshe Dayan, brave on the battlefield and a coward in public life; Benjamin Netanyahu, traitorous and a liar; Ehud Olmert, not worthy of being a prime minister; and Shimon Peres, dangerous and someone who put his own ambitions over national security. Among those Ariel Sharon did admire, trust, and respect: Yitzhak Rabin, President George W. Bush, Elliott Abrams, Tony Blair, and Condoleezza Rice. Gilad commented directly that this bond established was based "on mutual values of freedom, justice, and our war against Islamic fundamentalists. It is like a brotherhood."
The book chronicles how Sharon's relationship with the Bush administration allowed him to accept the "Roadmap for Peace," even with reservations. Gilad told American Thinker, "Friends don't always have to agree about everything. My father made his position very clear with Mr. Abrams, Ms. Rice, and President Bush -- what he could and could not do and why." Abrams concurs and regards Sharon as "a very good partner. Once President Bush made it clear that the U.S. was deeply concerned with Israeli security and that he would never ask Sharon to put Israel at risk, the relationship blossomed. Sharon came to accept the Roadmap because it said that there first must be the dismantling of the terrorist organizations before Palestinian statehood."
The book also discusses how the Bush administration would not condemn Israel's response to the terrorist attacks, seeing it as Israel's right of self-defense. There was never any talk of "disproportionate response" by Israel. Gilad noted that his dad felt that the correct response is one in which the terrorists understand that there is zero tolerance for Israel being attacked. Abrams told of a comment Sharon made to him: "'[Y]ou cannot protect a country if you are worried about what the New York Times is going to say.' This reflected his contempt for those who criticized Israel's response."
Sharon is a compelling book about the man and his impact on world events. He is a great military figure and a historic leader who came to be admired by his contemporary world leaders for the views he espoused. Ariel Sharon was a straight talker who said what he meant and meant what he said. As Elliott Abrams summarized, "I am completely a fan. I am not neutral here since I had the opportunity of working with Sharon when I was at the White House. He is a very respected figure."