BEHIND SHARON'S FOLLY

By Prof. Paul Eidelberg

Animated by hubris, Prime Minister Sharon tried to transform the Likud referendum into a personal issue. The issue, he wanted Likud voters to believe, was not the merits or defects of his plan to evacuate Gaza and uproot its 8,000 Jewish residents, but Ariel Sharon: his triumphant leadership of the Likud Party.

1. Ironically, Sharon was indeed the issue. For he personifies the greatest weakness of Israeli prime ministers, their inability to see things in "black and white." Sharon's crushing defeat was not the result of some miscalculation of his mind, but rather a failure of his heart.

We are enjoined in the Shema: "Do not go astray after your hearts..." (Numbers 15:39). Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, one of the great leaders of European Jewry in the generation leading up to the Holocaust, asked -- and here I abbreviate: "Why does the Torah speak of the heart and not the mind?" He answers: "False beliefs result not so much from a defective intelligence as from a perverted heart. The heart is the seat of our desires and will, and those desires are the source of all distorted thinking." Hence the folly of Sharon stems from a perverted heart, a heart which, according to the Talmud (Berachot 12b), has strayed from God.

Let me remind the reader of what Prime Minister Sharon said in an interview with Ha'aretz Magazine on April 13, 2001. While Jews were being reduced to body parts, Mr. Sharon publicly declared that his son Omri had taught him "not to see things in black and white"! Therein was the real issue of the Likud referendum.

What made the referendum a stunning defeat for Sharon was that so many of those who voted against his plan did indeed see things in "black and white"! Unlike Israel's Prime Minister they saw without equivocation that the uprooting of Jews from Gaza was simply Evil. Their hearts had not gone astray. And this is not all.

Sharon, like supporters of unilateral disengagement such as Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu , poses as a "pragmatist." Apparently, political circumstances have changed since last year, when Sharon opposed Labor leader Amram Mitzna's plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza. Politicians who cannot think in terms of black and white must of course accommodate themselves to ever-changing circumstances. This is "realism." It is also called "opportunism."

What puts the lie to Sharon's "realism" or "pragmatism" is that it is rooted in a heart that cannot face the enormity of Evil, the Arab-Islamic Culture of Hatred, which is based on a satanic conception of God. One may see Sharon's psychological flaw in the media, even in "centrist" writers of The Jerusalem Post: its many-sided editor-in-chief, Bret Stephens, its middle-of-the-road executive editor Amotz Asa-El, its very retired lecturer in political science, Yosef Goell -- to name but three who supported the Sharon plan on "pragmatic grounds." (Like so many other "Middle Israelis," Goell deplores "ideological purity" -- hence those who think in black and white terns)

I mention these pundits because their "centrism" or apparent "realism" -- like Sharon's -- is more dangerous than the extremism of the Left. Only the incorrigible are deceived by the likes of Messrs. Peres, Beilin, and Burg. It is precisely the "centrists" that lead people astray, for they obscure the genocidal objectives of Israel's enemies even while admitting them. Even when they acknowledge the blood-thirsty objectives of the Arabs, they proceed, in all haste, to anaesthetize the public with placebos -- self-effacing concessions or self-defeating compromises. Unfortunately, accommodationism will also be found among the so-called Right.

Returning to Sharon -- we really haven't left him -- is it not remarkable that this "pragmatist" so utterly miscalculated the sentiments of the Likud rank-and-file? Does this not make nonsense of his "pragmatism"? If he can so misjudge the members of his own party, must we not also suspect that he is even more susceptible to misjudging the Americans, and what is worse, the Arabs who have long cultivated the art of ingratiation, that is, of dissembling?

It has been said that the most difficult person to mislead is an honest man. Perhaps we should amend this to say an honorable man. It has also been said that those who lack a sense of honor eventually succumb to stupidity. This is consistent with the words of Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman mentioned above. The sense of honor resides more in the heart than in the mind. Beware of "pragmatists," be they politicians or pundits.