- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

The ads for "Sharon: Israel's Warrior Politician" make two important points regarding its timeliness: First, that it is the first full work about Ariel Sharon in English and, second, that it deals with his "checkered career and personal tragedies … in a factual, comprehensive and balanced way, without any distracting psychobabble."
Well, both statements are true; but one can wish that such a long-awaited work did indeed actually include more "psycho" anything, for too much of the time the book is simply an almost newspaper-like repetition of fact after fact after fact of its subject's life. One desperately wishes for the authors to clasp him in their obviously well-informed but limited hands and sculpt a full picture of this man who is so important to the world today.
But while this does not happen and while the reader still feels at the end of the book that the man somehow eludes him Anita Miller, Jordan Miler and Sigalit Zetouni, its authors, do provide an enormous amount of information to the researcher or reader.
The first thing that becomes clear is that Ariel Sharon's life was always one surrounded by, and informed by, violence. He was raised in pre-statehood Jewish Palestine, fighting for his life literally every night against his family's Arab neighbors. He moved on to various "irregular" military groups in pre-Israeli Palestine where he obviously fit in better in these early irregular worlds of violence than in the constituted military world of the Israeli Defense Forces, which eventually he joined.
Never was his irregular style better illustrated in his early days than that fated October evening of October, 1953, when Mr. Sharon oversaw the slaughter in the Jordanian villge of Kibbeyeh. This mission, far less known, at least in English, than his implicit overseeing of the slaughters of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, provided an early warning of his character, which in fact comes across in this book as remarkably consistent. As outlined here, he led his men into the village, blowing up house after house in Kibeyeh, resulting in the deaths of 69 Jordanian and Palestinian women and chldren.
Mr. Sharon always insisted that he did not know there were people in the houses, but few analysts believe the explanation and those early deaths, at a time when such actions were not so common as today, left an indelible black mark against the IDF.
From the very beginning, Mr. Sharon looked at Jordan and saw Palestine. As the authors show, the Sharon of the '60s and '70s believed that "if Arafat replaced [King Hussein of Jordan] and established a Palestinian state there, the issue of Palestinian self-determination would be resolved, thus ending the conflict with Israel." (When I asked by-then Prime Minister Sharon about his historic "Jordan is Palestine" belief two years ago in an electronic press conference hookup between Jerusalem and Washington, he hmmmed and hawed about it but did not deny that this would still be his preference.)
But what is his idea of a "Palestinian state" today? What really does he believe about "the" question that underlies all others in the region, most definitely including a war against Iraq?
The best hint given by the authors, all researchers from Chicago-area universities and institutions who unfortunatelynever reveal their own intentions, is to be found in a speech they quote by Mr. Sharon, given in France only three years ago.
This was at the important moment when the Palestinians were threatening to declare an independent state, so it is importantwhen Mr. Sharon speaks of "two buffer zones … that would exist on either side of the West Bank, with Israel controlling security over air space and seaports in a new Palestinian state. One buffer zone would be in the thinly populated Jordan Rift Valley between the West Bank and Jordan and the other along the old cease-fire line that was Israel's border before the June, 1967, 'Six-Day War.' And there would be no open borders between the two states … There is no question of our trying to recover Gaza, Nablus or Jenin, but all the rest that is in our hands today will remain so."
In fact, since he also has repeated this formula to dozens and dozens of people in recent years, there is every reason to believe that this remains his intention. If so, it does indeed confirm the fears on the part of many that the most he and his Far Right in Israel would support as "Palestine" would be the much-criticized series of Middle Eastern "bantustans," isolated from the rest of the world and totally controlled by Israel.
But in one of the most revealing paragraphs of the book, the Charles Heyman, editor of "Jane's World Armies," is quoted assaying that the recent "unsophisticated attempts at riot control" demonstrated that the Israeli army was not what it had been, as the reservists being called up where "just shooting into the crowd."
This is because the once revered and highly ethical IDF have in effect followed the Sharon brand of irregular and undisciplined military behavior in the conflicts in Israel. The best and the brightest were no longer choosing the army as a career, the authors say, and "since few liberals chose an army career, the army had developed a right-wing" cast and thus there was "the potential for greater violence in any internal security operations against Palestinians."
Aside from descriptions of Ariel Sharon on his beautiful ranch in the Negev with his wife and listening to music and enjoying his artwork, one sees him striding across the pages of this book one of those historic men for whom violence is like air and water, almost a cleansing agent. Sixty-nine killed in Kibeyeh and he didn't know they were there.One hundred seventy nine "terrorists" killed under Mr. Sharon's oversight in 1972 in Gaza he would always say he had brought "peace" to the Gaza that is again enflamed today and again under his suzerainty.
Mr. Sharon standing on the East side of the Suez Canal in 1973 and urging his superiors in the IDF to let him destroy the Egyptian armed forces for a generation more responsible generals stopped him. Four hundred and sixty refugees slaughtered in Beirut in 1972 it was thoseLebanese Christians who did it, and why on earth should the Israeli Kahan Commission damn him for it? His settlements across the West Bank and Gaza it was the Jews' historic right.His opposition to helping the Bosnians and the Kosovars when they were being overrun and slaughtered by the Serbs he liked strong men, like the Serbs.
In the end, this book makes you wonder: In the Israel of today, is Ariel Sharon an anomaly, a creature of a certain time and strata of the country, a leader who will pass? Or is he the symbol of the once-idealistic country today? One has to believe that the answers to those questions will surely be the answers to the future of the Middle East and to America's crucial future there.

Georgie Anne Geyer, a sydincated columnist for Universal Press Syndicate, is author of "Guerrilla Prince: The Untold Story of Fidel Castro."

By Anita Miller, Jordan Miller and Sigalit Zetouni
Academy Chicago, $32.50, 613 pages, illus.

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