DUEL ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT
By Uri Dan
The duel between Lt.-Gen. (res.) Ehud Barak and Maj-Gen. (res.) Ariel Sharon is taking place publicly, in the light of day, on the heights of the Temple Mount. The historical irony is that they both developed as commanders, as leaders, in the ranks of the IDF. Barak has been ready to give up the Temple Mount,
secretly, ever since the Camp David summit, even without first consulting his government. Sharon is holding on to the Temple Mount in a way appropriate to it: as a symbol of the Jewish people's longing for a state of its own. It is hard to believe that they both came from the same IDF.
The gulf between the two approaches cannot be attributed solely to the way they were brought up - Barak in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon and Sharon in Kfar Malal. The difference in their ages (58, 72) also fails to give an explanation.
The difference in their army ranks is also insufficient to explain this duel on the Temple Mount. Barak, lieutenant-general, former chief of general staff, excelled in small, surgical commando operations. Fortunately for him, he never commanded a single large-scale military campaign, or even a single national campaign, until he reached his present position.
Only in the Lebanon War did Barak serve, with great enthusiasm, as the second in command of an armored corps, numbering about a thousand tanks, whose troops displayed bravery (including in Sultan Yakoub), during the IDF's effort to evict Yasser Arafat and his 10,000 terrorists from Beirut. The then minister of defense Sharon later promoted Barak from brigadier-general to major-general.
Sharon, even before waging campaigns on the national scale - during the last 23 years, as foreign minister, national infrastructure minister, minister of housing and construction, minister of industry and trade, minister of defense, minister of agriculture - brought to the IDF some of its most glorious victories on the battlefield. There, Sharon had already demonstrated his ability to direct large and complex elements.
Barak is known as one who takes clocks to pieces but doesn't know how to meet his own timetables. As a child Barak excelled in picking locks, but he has now failed to pick the combination lock of the national safe for peace and security. Ask Zvika Malhin, a skilled lock-picker, formerly employed by the Mossad.
THE TREMENDOUS difference in experience between a lieutenant-general and a major-general cannot explain how Barak, in such a frivolous and unbelievable manner, can order his foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, to plead with the Palestinians that they acknowledge "our deep historical attachment to the Temple Mount" before handing it over to Arafat, who has no intention of giving anything in return.
Sharon is the youngest and last of the leadership generation that held the belief that the Temple Mount and the Western Wall - not Rehov Sheinkin, not Rehavia, not Savyon, and not Herzliya Pituah, and not even Kfar Malal and Mishmar Hasharon - caused the Jews' return to their country.
Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, Haim Bar-Lev, David Elazar, Yitzhak Rabin, would never have considered wheeling and dealing about the fate of the Temple Mount with foreigners, not even as an election ploy. Leah Rabin, on her deathbed, managed to say: "Yitzhak would turn in his grave if he were to see the concessions Ehud is making in Jerusalem."
Sharon represents this generation which, despite being secular, never abandoned its national conscience and direction. It is a generation with values. He and his late friends joined the army before the War of Independence and remained in the IDF because of the national need for someone to defend the homeland. Their political orientation was known during their service, and remained the same when they entered political life.
Barak, despite his volunteering for the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, at some stage in his army career started making plans to exploit his army service, including his medals, as a springboard into political life, straight into a minister's seat. This is a generation of technocrats, opportunists, careerists. Just look at the cases of Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Matan Vilna'i, Yitzhak Mordechai, and others.
Consequently, as COS, Barak strongly professionally criticized the Oslo Accords. As prime minister, he implemented them in such an extreme manner, that even Yossi Beilin, who hates Sharon and ardently defends Arafat, was forced to hold him tight to restrict his movements.
It is no wonder that Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount led to the chain of events that ended in Barak's resignation. Barak himself recently explained in Sharm e-Sheikh, when vigorously defending himself and Sharon before the impudent Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, "By his visit to the Temple Mount Sharon challenged my policy, as he had the right to do."
The Temple Mount is an appropriate place for the two to hold their current duel, over the soul of the Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael.(c) Jerusalem Post 2000
Uri Dan is an author of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israel Secret Service and other books on the Middle East.