My Meeting With Ariel Sharon

January 13, 2014 8:21 am 0 comments

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Photo: Israeli MFA.

Shortly after the 1982 Lebanon War, I was in Israel with three retired, high-ranking American General Officers, including the former Chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the former Commander, US Air Forces Europe; and the former Commander in Chief, US Army, Europe. We traveled across the north, into Lebanon and up to the Beaufort Castle (from which the PLO had been shelling Israel). The highlight of our program was to be a meeting with Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) schedule, however, showed the meeting late in the afternoon the day before the Kahan Commission investigating the Christian-perpetrated massacres at Sabra and Chatila in Lebanon.

Surely, I thought, he had better things to do than meet with us.

But he arrived on time, relaxed and very willing to talk. After the scheduled hour, I made a move to thank him and end the meeting. “Why are you in a hurry?” he thundered. I suggested he might need the time for other business. “I’m spending tomorrow answering questions for the Commission,” he said. “And I since already know what I did and didn’t do and since I am planning to tell the truth, I don’t need time to study.” We stayed another hour.

It was the first of my 29 trips to Israel escorting retired American Flag and General Officers; 23 of them included Ariel Sharon.

He was comfortable with and enjoyed the American military and he was on our schedule annually until 1991, when he was Minister of Housing. I noticed the omission by our hosts at the MOD, but thought our timing was just bad.  Late one night, my Israeli cell phone (used exclusively for outgoing so no one had the number) rang. It was Gen. Sharon. “Where are you?” he said. “In Tel Aviv,” I replied. “Why aren’t you in my office?” he demanded. I said he wasn’t on the schedule, foolishly suggesting that perhaps the MOD thought that as Housing Minister, he would be less relevant to our group that year.  “Housing IS security,” he boomed. He believed that. Houses – not just “settlements” – but houses and their residents, citizens ready to serve the state and grow  the country, were as much a part of Israel’s security as soldiers on the borders. He chaired the Knesset Committee overseeing Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union. More citizens, more houses, more security.

We were in his office the next day.

As Foreign Minister and then as Prime Minister, Gen. Sharon was a fixture in the program of the Flag and General Officers. He preferred to meet late, when his other work was done. He asked as many questions as he answered – and he answered many.  He wanted to know about 9-11, about Afghanistan, and later about the war in Iraq and Saddam’s WMD (he believed Saddam had them). He talked about Iran, Hezbollah and the “peace process.” In 2002, we saw the first video and photographs from the PLO weapons ship the Karine-A, captured by Israeli commandos. In 2003, we saw photographs of suicide bombing victims that had never been released to the press. “The deceased are entitled to their privacy,” he said somberly.

In 2005 we discussed the Gaza disengagement at length. It was, as usual, late in the evening and we were leaving for the airport directly from his office. I had provided one of my participants with a gift to present on behalf of the group at the end of the meeting.  When the time came, I nodded to the General, who rose and said, “We would like to thank you, sir…” That’s all he got out. Sharon said, relatively calmly, “Sit down. We’re not finished yet.” It is hard to rattle the Commander of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), but the General was rattled. He sat. I said, “We have to be at the airport soon, we’re leaving.” “I’ll tell you when you’re leaving,” he said tartly. “You have lots of time.”

And so we did; but he didn’t. It was our last meeting with General Sharon.

My great takeaways were first that national security is not just about soldiers and their equipment. There is a complex relationship between the military, the citizenry, the government, and the economy – national mood counts and confidence of the people in its government counts the most. And second, when someone smarter than you tells you he’ll let you know when the meeting is over, listen – you’ll learn more that way.

This article by Shoshana Bryen was originally published by The Jewish Policy Center.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion Robert Gates’ Memoir is a Jaw-Dropping Read (REVIEW)

    Robert Gates’ Memoir is a Jaw-Dropping Read (REVIEW)

    Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates’s memoir follows the classic form, telling the story of his years at the Pentagon during the Bush and Obama administrations. He focuses on what he did and experienced personally as secretary, neither writing a broad policy treatise nor recounting the entire history of the administrations in which he served. In so doing, Gates provides penetrating insights about the inner workings of US national security decision-making. Had I been George W. Bush, I would [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews The Media, Israel, and Anti-Semitism (REVIEW)

    The Media, Israel, and Anti-Semitism (REVIEW)

    Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A-Z by Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin (Pavilion Press, Philadelphia, Pa. 2013) Sophocles said, “What people believe prevails over truth,” Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A-Z is ideal for the arm chair reader who would like a basic grasp of the terms used in the mainstream media’s presentation of the Arab-Israeli situation as is reported today. This is a book whose time has come. This is a book where the reader gains a [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs William Shatner’s One Man Show Keeps Him in the Limelight (INTERVIEW)

    William Shatner’s One Man Show Keeps Him in the Limelight (INTERVIEW)

    JNS.org – On Thursday, audiences around the country can feel what it is like to be William Shatner, the Jewish actor best known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on “Star Trek.” Shatner’s one-man show “Shatner’s World”—which was on Broadway and toured Canada, Australia, and the United States—will be presented in nearly 700 movie theaters nationwide for one night only on April 24. Sponsored by Fathom Events and Priceline.com (for whom Shatner has famously served as a pitchman), [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    The Origins of Palestinian Refugee Relief Efforts (REVIEW)

    Romirowsky and Joffe’s book Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief is an important volume for those interested in truly understanding the origins of the Palestinian refugee issue. Utilizing a treasure trove of newly released documents, the authors link UNRWA’s (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine) origins to the Quakers/American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). For those readers who thought they knew most of the Middle East story, Romirowsky and Joffe’s version provides another twist. The authors meticulously [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.