People ask: “When did Ariel Sharon change his spots? What happened that made him suddenly decide to uproot the settlements he planted and abandon the party he created? Was there a defining moment when he ceased to be a follower of Jabotinsky and Begin and decided to adopt the retreatist manifesto of the left?”
The answers are many and varied. But nobody seems to know for sure when that moment was.
One other defining event is perhaps easier to identify.
Sharon’s last speech as a true Likudnik.
That was October 4th 2001.
His famous Czechoslovakia speech.
He appealed to democratic nations: “Don't repeat the mistake of 1938 when it was decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for the sake of an expedient temporary solution. Don't try to appease the Arabs at our expense. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. We will fight terrorism to the end."
This was a response to the Bush administration’s declaration of support for a Palestinian state in hopes of enlisting Arab support on the eve of its invasion of Afghanistan.
Earlier in the day, as Shimon Peres was indulging his peace fantasies with Palestinian officials, two Israelis, including a woman soldier, had been killed when a Palestinian dressed in Israeli army uniform opened fire at the bus station in the northern town of Afula.
The following day Sharon apologised for the outburst.
For me, that is the day, the moment, that I feel changed everything for Sharon. And he seems to have gone on apologising to the Americans ever since.
I have never lost my respect for Sharon as a brilliant and fearless general and military tactician. But when it comes to the Americans, he is like Superman in a kryptonite overcoat. In stark contrast to Menachem Begin who showed his mettle more than once in stand-up arguments with US presidents, Sharon seems to be a total ‘Yes Man’. Stories of Condoleeza Rice’s condescending ultimatums and screaming sessions with Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz are too frequent to be dismissed as hearsay. That she feels able to behave in this way freely and so often is proof positive that she and her colleagues regard Israel as nothing more than a meek and compliant client state.
That our most feared general - whose biography is entitled Warrior and who is commonly referred to as Bulldozer – allows this to prevail and found it necessary to apologise for the Czechoslovakia jibe speaks volumes. No matter how dependent we may be on American aid and military hardware, our leaders must never apologise for declaring that the Jewish nation is not expendable.