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Just Call Him Roxie LaRue


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Anyone who truly feels betrayed by Ariel Sharon’s apparent transformation into a flabbier, more sartorially challenged version of Shimon Peres is either (a) ignorant of Israeli political history or (b) mesmerized by years of watching a master illusionist at work.

Indeed, if Sharon were younger in years, slighter of frame, and given to more theatrical pursuits, one could well imagine him strutting about on a dimly-lit platform, corseted and bewigged and operating under some campy stage name like Roxie LaRue or Denise LaDiva.

Sharon, let’s face it, is the closest thing Israel has to a political cross-dresser – his subterfuge not at all dissimilar to that of a talented mime who when all dolled up is the spitting image of a young Judy Garland or an in-her-prime Cher, but who underneath the colorful makeup and fancy costume turns out to be a nondescript unemployed fashion consultant named Phil.

Back in June 2003, in a column titled “Deconstructing Sharon,” the Monitor professed “to never ceas[ing] to be amazed at the bewilderment expressed by the prime minister’s more devoted fans, both here and in Israel, whenever he reveals himself to be something of a political chameleon.”

Sharon, the Monitor noted, “was talking about territorial compromise – and more – a long, long time ago. In 1977 Sharon formed a political party he called “Shlomzion” which held out the idea of an independent Palestinian state; Sharon even tried to get the superdove Yossi Sarid (who went on to head the ultra-left Meretz party) to join Shlomzion.”

It was electoral failure, the Monitor wrote, that convinced Sharon it was time for a makeover: “Sharon disbanded Shlomzion after the party won just two seats and he was asked to join the Begin government…. Begin gave him the Agriculture portfolio – and in the blink of an eye the man who just months earlier had considered himself a good match with Yossi Sarid became a born-again hawk and an ardent advocate for settlements.”

Sharon’s history as a Laborite dove has long been ignored by the mainstream media; in fact, the Monitor column of June 2003 quoted above was written in direct response to an error-riddled dispatch filed by New York Times reporter David Sanger, who committed an act of gross historical illiteracy by writing that Sharon “helped create many…settlements as Likud minister in the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967…”

“Mon Dieu!” the Monitor exclaimed at “this towering monument of Times-style inaccuracy…. For one thing, there was no Likud until 1973; for another, Sharon was not a minister of any kind during those years….Contrary to the scenario spun by Sanger, it wasn’t until 1977 – a full decade after the Six Day War – that Sharon had anything at all to do with the building of settlements.”

Those who looked to Sharon for political salvation and once again find themselves bewailing their betrayal at the hands of their erstwhile champion should read “True Colors,” Michael B. Oren’s article in the Feb. 14 issue of The New Republic. Oren, whose “Six Days of War” is widely recognized as the best book on the subject of the Six Day War, does an able and timely job of cutting through the myths of Sharon’s political development.

“Raised in a secular Labor environment, Sharon was never nurtured on religious or conservative ideology,” writes Oren, “and, for all his opposition to a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders, he repeatedly conceded territories captured in the Six Day War.”

Oren makes the point that Sharon, in ideology as well as political temperament, far from being a rightist, is actually a throwback to the Mapai socialists of David Ben-Gurion vintage. Like Ben-Gurion, who had little patience for the consensus-style workings of democratic government, Sharon “has trampled over detractors – first by inviting a Likud referendum on disengagement, then by ignoring its results when he lost. He has since rejected all suggestions of holding a national plebiscite on withdrawal. In fact, Sharon is proceeding with disengagement while enjoying a majority of only two votes in the Knesset, both of which he purchased from ultra-Orthodox parties by agreeing to fund their religious schools.”

To read Oren’s article in its entirety, go to www.tnr.com

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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