Sunday, June 29, 1997

E Tu Arik?

E Tu Arik?
June 29, 1997

Ariel Sharon finally received what he's been waiting for all these years - public acknowledgment of
his right to participate in the highest echelons of Israeli government. Since his ousting from the Defense Ministry following the Kahn Committee Report, holding him indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Sharon has been fighting his way back up to the top. He has brought suits against media publications, including the famous case against Time Magazine and presently against a major Israeli newspaper. He has consistently claimed innocence. He was at least partially exonerated last week when a former Israeli general who had testified against Sharon a decade and a half ago, admitted that he had lied.
Ariel Sharon is, to say the least, a very complicated personality. He has given over 50 years of his life to Israel and the Jewish People. He is many things to many people - loved by some and hated by others. One thing is for sure: he has accomplished a tremendous amount - both in the military and in Israeli politics. I won’t go into a biography of Sharon (although I can recommend his autobiography). The day may come, however, when Sharon is remembered as ‘the great unifier.’ He brought together right-wing politicians over twenty years ago, eventually leading to Menachem Begin’s victory in 1977. And he is overwhelmingly responsible for bringing David Levy and Raphael Eitan together with Bibi Netanyahu, resulting in the downfall of Shimon Peres and Co.

Sharon is not a vindictive man. Many times he has been slighted, but he seems always to follow a course of action based on ideological truth, rather than personal consideration. He seems to do what he really believes is right. And when he is wrong, he has tended to admit it. Two classic examples come to mind. Ariel Sharon implemented the abandonment of Sinai. Today he regrets that. During the Shamir administration he was one of the most vociferous assailants of the them Prime Minister’s policies concerning Judea and Samaria. Yet, when Shamir came under fire from the Americans, Sharon was his most active supporters.

Following the election of Netanyahu Sharon was expected to receive a plum position in the new government. After all, he played a major part in the victory. However, Netanyahu snubbed Ariel Sharon. Sharon was not included in the new Likud-led cabinet. Following a couple of months of negotiation, Bibi sewed together a new post - that of ‘Infrastructure.’ Since taking up his post, little has been heard from Sharon.

Why did Netanyahu leave Sharon out of the government? Did he really not have a place for him? I don’t think so. Bibi was afraid of Sharon - of his power, of his past, of his tremendous strength and political savvy. He knew that Sharon’s opposition to the Hebron Accords could endanger its acceptance in the government. Arik Sharon was one of Hebron’s most tenacious supporters. He visited Hebron frequently and knows the city like the back of his hand. By leaving Sharon out Netanyahu was signaling him - ‘Now I am the Boss.’ When Sharon finally received his coveted position in the government, he quite simply shut up.

The latest Bibi crisis were no exception. Sharon was no where to be heard. He didn’t say anything bad about Bibi. When he so desires, Sharon knows very well how to keep his mouth shut. The result of the Bar-On-Hebron dealings left Dan Meridor without a ministry - and his successor in the Treasury is almost surely to be Ariel Sharon.

The Ministry of the Treasury is one of the top three spots in the government - together with Defense and the Foreign Office. Once again, Arik Sharon will find himself up top. But treasury is not enough. Sharon demanded that Bibi bring him into the inner sanctum, together with David Levy and Yitzhak Mordechai. The two of them, along with the Prime Minister, formulate the positions to be taken concerning negotiations with Arafat. These are the people who, to a great degree, will determine the immediate future of the State of Israel - what are to be the borders of the Jewish State.

Theoretically, Sharon’s addition to this forum can only be positive. That is why Mordechai and Levy are reported to be upset about his membership in the select group. Sharon is known to take much harder right-wing positions than the others.

The question is whether Sharon will remember his previous errors and his later regret. Or, is he determined to maintain his seat in the cabinet, at all costs, even at the cost of compromising his positions, as has Netanyahu. Tonight Kol Yisrael reported that Sharon met, late in the week, with Abu Mazen - one of the senior, if not the senior official in the Palestinian Authority, after Arafat. He and Arafat haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but he is known to be a very powerful man in the PA.

Sharon hasn’t yet taken up his new posts - but he is already meeting with top palestinians. Is he acting on his own - or is he doing Netanyahu’s asking? Being that both David Levy and Yitzhak Mordechai had no prior knowledge of the Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting, it is safe to say that Sharon was acting on behalf of the Prime Minister. If he continues acting on Bibi’s behalf, we might be better off if he stays where he is in the Infrastructure Ministry, where he can only do good and little harm.

If he plans on being Bibi’s stooge the only phrase that we might conjure up for him is...
E Tu Arik?

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