“Shouldn’t They Fear You More Than They Hate You?”

Analysis will come later. As an enormous public figure passes from the political scene, we have organizational and personal recollections of Ariel Sharon.

Analysis will come later. As an enormous public figure passes from the political scene, we have organizational and personal recollections of Ariel Sharon.

JINSA met him during the first Flag and General Officers Trip in 1982. He was Minister of Defense and our meeting was scheduled the afternoon before his meeting with the Kahan Commission – investigating the Christian militia massacre of Palestinian fighters at Sabra and Chatilla in Lebanon. We were sure he would cancel, but there he was, relaxed and more than willing to talk. After about an hour, thinking that perhaps the Minister would like to review his testimony for the next day’s grilling, one participant hesitantly asked, “Don’t you have more important things to do than talk to us?” “Like what?” asked Sharon. He waited for us to be uncomfortable and laughed. “They’ll ask questions and I will answer them. I know what I did. I don’t have to study.”

We spent more than two hours with him that day, setting the pattern for the next 23 years – except one. He was Housing Minister and our Defense Ministry hosts didn’t put him on the schedule – perhaps thinking our American military guests wouldn’t find the meeting relevant. What a mistake! He called. “Why aren’t you here? How can you have generals in Israel and not meet with me? Housing is security.” And for him, security was everything. We changed our plans and needless to say, we never, ever made that mistake again.

Our reward was to be in his office at the moment the PLO weapons ship, the Santorini, was captured and to look at the incoming intelligence with him. And to be among the first Americans to see the photographs of bus and cafe bombings that he preferred not to show – out of respect for the deceased captured in the horror of their death. And the time we almost missed our plane because the meeting was on our way out of the country and he was feeling expansive at 9:00 pm after a long day at work.

We had arranged that at a signal from his aide, one of us would stand up, thank him for the time, present him with a JINSA token and end the meeting. On cue, a trip participant rose and began his thanks, but Sharon interrupted and asked if we had another meeting to go to. “No sir,” was the reply. Sharon said, “Good. Then sit down. I’ll decide when the meeting is finished.” We sat, and while his assistant ran in every five minutes to frantically signal that he was running overtime, he just kept waving her away. He really didn’t want to stop being with military people who, he said, could understand the decisions he had to make.

In each meeting we learned about history, politics, military operations and military thinking. We asked questions and he answered them. All of them. Everything was off the record, nothing was off limits and nothing taxed his patience.

He could ask questions, too, and turn them into lessons. Another trip participant sent us a recollection from his meeting. “Mr. Sharon asked, ‘Would you agree that no matter what you do or give up, the Muslim world will still hate you?’ When I said, ‘yes,’ he said, ‘Well, if this is so, shouldn’t they fear you more than they hate you?’ My answer was, of course, ‘Yes.'”

Enemies of the Jewish people had reason to hate him because his priority was the protection and security of Jews in the Jewish homeland with its eternal and undivided capital, Jerusalem. And if his goal was to ensure that those enemies feared him more than they hated him, he would be judged a success.