It's Better to Be Orphans

Israel is nostalgic for its most dangerous leader, for the person who caused it more damage than anyone else.

Once again we are being hit by a wave of desire for "a strong man." From every direction, from the left and right, voices that miss former prime minister Ariel Sharon are being heard, like voices of longing for a father who has departed. "If Sharon were here the war in Lebanon would have ended differently," and "Sharon would have put an end to the Qassams a long time ago."

Let it be said at once: Being orphaned in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's shadow is better than the fatherliness of the mythical leader. Hamas should be profoundly grateful to Sharon, thanks to whom it now controls Gaza. Hezbollah, too, would be ungrateful if it did not thank the man who led to its firm footing in Lebanon, and here in Israel Sderot owes that man for the Qassams that are landing on its head. Those who now miss Sharon are longing for the brute force and bullying that led us to the brink. Israel is nostalgic for its most dangerous leader, for the person who caused it more damage than anyone else.

During his six years as prime minister Sharon wiped out the last chance for the existence of a Palestinian partner. Sharon's Israel waged war on the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and instead of a secular movement that believes in compromises we received a fanatical Islamic leadership, just as the first Lebanon war gave rise to Hezbollah. Whom do we have to thank for this? Sharon.

Under Sharon's leadership the Israel Defense Forces destroyed all the institutions of the new and fragile Palestinian regime, from the police headquarters in various places to the welfare offices. As for Yasser Arafat, the only person who was able to forge a historic compromise, we eliminated him as a leader, and no one in Israel asked what would rise on the ruins of the PLO and who would come after Arafat. We have locked up Marwan Barghouti, a promising potential leader, for many years, together with a long list of political activists who talked about peace. We have also denied Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, the most moderate of the Palestinian leaders, any chance of gaining control, and we are not letting him present even the slightest achievement to his suffering citizenry.

Sharon is responsible for all of this. Under him, Israel spoke only the language of force, and of military and engineering operations, from Defensive Shield to the separation fence. After that, Sharon landed the much-praised disengagement on us. While ignoring in a racist and lordly way the existence of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, which has its needs and desires, and ignoring its leadership, Sharon pulled the IDF and Jewish settlements out of Gaza without any agreement or hope for the future, only to allow Israel to continue to control the West Bank. We destroyed everything and we left the Gaza Strip behind lock and bolt, imprisoned as it had never been before.

And it is no wonder that imprisoned and hungry people, who have no exit, have turned to anarchy and violence. The experiment with humans has succeeded: They have indeed begun to run amok in their huge cage. Hamas came into power - this too was no surprise - and the world imposed a cruel economic boycott on the Palestinian Authority, with Israel's encouragement, even when the unity government arose. The civil war and the Qassams were not long in coming. These are just the appetizer. And what did we expect? And what did Sharon intend when he replaced one occupation with another?

If, heaven forbid, Sharon were now in a position of leadership, the IDF would already have invaded Gaza, just as it invaded Jenin and Nablus and sowed killing and destruction there. The firing of the Qassams might have ceased for a while, just as has happened with the terror attacks from the West Bank. But on the ruins, reinforced by poverty and despair, a new form of violent resistance would have arisen. Sharon, a real man, would also have totally destroyed the last remnants of the Palestinian unity government, and even then no one would have asked what would come in its stead. It isn't that we aren't acting like bullies now as well, kidnapping an education minister in the middle of the night and bombing money changers. But Olmert has refrained from going all the way in Sharon's path. How pleasant it is, relatively and temporarily, to be orphans in his lap.