Emanuel Shahaf

Arik as a metaphor

The outpour of mourning over Arik Sharon’s departure, after he was, for all intents and purposes already gone for 8 years, beckons some questions. Ariel Sharon was a controversial figure who raised a lot of emotions either way throughout his career. He was brave reckless and brutal during his army service accumulating much of his reputation by ignoring his superiors and, in Tony Blair’s words, leaving a lot of debris in his wake not only among the Arabs.

After leaving army service and taking up politics he used the tactics he acquired in the army to move things in the country and, in times of war, outside of it as well. And move them he did. If it was turning the tides against Egypt in the 1973 war as a reserve general or destroying terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon in 1982 as Minister of Defence, if it was creating housing solutions for hundreds of thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union or building new settlements in the territories, if it was climbing the temple mount to spark another intifada or if it was removing settlements from the Gaza strip in contravention of election promises as Prime Minister, Arik was a a doer, a veritable bulldozer. Nothing stood in his way. Nothing. And he left a lot of debris in his wake.

While being ruthless in his public endeavours, in private he was more gentle albeit cynical at times. Everybody who had personal dealings with him, even ardent political foes and all those who worked with him and for him were smitten by his pleasant demeanor. There was a man with real emotional intelligence who clicked with almost everybody he met. His personal charme came across in the media as well and helped to repair or at least disguise the considerable damage his image had suffered over the years by virtue of some of his more ruthless or thoughtless commissions or omissions. And his charme served him well to pursue what he wanted to do. And what he did left a lot of debris in its wake.

Almost twenty years ago, after Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, we wanted to be him, the introverted thoughtful strategically thinking sabra who was tough and could be politically incorrect but at all times reasonable and open to peace. The world loved Rabin and we wanted some of that love. Now we’d rather be Arik Sharon, or more correctly, like we perceived him: The ruthless bulldozer who gets things done, regardless. Nice and gentle to those on the inside but tough and prickly to the outside. A sabra after all. And the world loved him as well because he could move things in the right direction. Or so it appeared. And we want some of that love as well. Because today, we are not getting love. None at all.

Today we are stuck, totally stuck and we’d just crave to have somebody who could solve our problems like Arik tried to solve them: In one fell swoop. In an elegant and/or brutal maneuver, without much talking and many times, even less thinking ahead. Just do it. Bulldoze it. Flat. Make it go away, unilaterally if you must and take no prisoners. And take the flak.

But then again, come to think of it, Arik never made our problems go away. In the end he just made some of us, a fairly large majority, feel good that things were being accomplished, things were moving. The problems are still here and that feeling is gone, together with Arik, for good. It’s only now that we bury Arik that it is beginning to sink in. Arik is gone and so are his ways of doing things. And he left a lot of debris in his wake.

We have to better than this. A lot better.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is Vice Chairman of the Israel-Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, Vice-Chairman of the Israeli-German Society (IDG), Co-Chair of the Federation Movement (, member of the council at and author of "Identity: The Quest for Israel's Future".
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