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Jewish World Review Jan. 31, 2000/ 8 Shevat, 5761

Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder

Jackie & Raul
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The Israeli Harry Truman -- ARIEL SHARON is the Harry Truman of Israeli politics. He displays many of the same distinguishing traits that made Truman a great president and the most brilliantly right man of his time.

Most of the time, it is an abuse of the English language when any politician is called a "leader." Leadership among politicians is as rare as Yasser Arafat at a bar mitzvah. Anybody who depends on votes for leading is suffering from a conflict of interest, as fundamental as a man at an orgy wanting to have a good time while trying to put his clothes on.

In a legal matter, a judge recuses himself when anything even resembling the possibility of a conflict of interest arises. On that basis, it should be obvious to ask: "Why do we expect a politician to be a leader if there is a conflict between the good of his country and the survival of his career?"

If there were a truth-in-labeling law, politicians would be called "followers." They go in one direction until the polls they are following point in the opposite direction, and then they do an about-face.

Different times demand different kinds of leaders. People don't necessarily know what is the best solution for their problems. That's why we take advice from people we call "experts." We naturally assume that they know better than we do, and we take their advice.

But with voters, it's the exact opposite. We elect politicians as experts and find we have changed places with them. Since we can throw them out of office if they don't take orders from us, they dance like puppets to the beat of the public drum. That's why the main occupation of politicians is not studying issues and leading, but studying polls and following.

This is the profound difference between Sharon and every other so-called "leader" in Israel. When Israel was in its deepest weariness and misery, desperately seeking relief from the incessant horror of warfare, Sharon was not only rejected but was condemned and even hated. When he warned us that the Arabs could not be trusted, Israelis needed so desperately to feel that he was wrong, they didn't listen long enough to realize that history would prove he was right.

As his popularity polls kept going down, his voice kept going up. He kept pleading with us to realize that, while we were giving so much for peace, the Arabs, in return, were going to give us bullets and bombs and endless war.

He knew that the Arabs would not compromise, seeing not concessions for peace but confessions of weakness. He knew that before Arafat attended a peace conference, his Palestinian colleagues had their own conferences to prepare for the eventuality of the peace process breaking down, since it was their intention to cause it to break down as a prelude to war.

It is unbelievable that Sharon's colleagues and contemporaries, whose own experiences proved that they couldn't trust Arab intentions, were the very same people who believed we must trust the Arabs as the only way to achieve peace. The desire for peace of every Israeli was made to order for the duplicity of the Arabs who immediately viewed it as unilateral disarmament.

While the rest of the country was enveloped in a desperation for peace that blinded them from reality, Sharon maintained a clarity of vision about the Palestinian state of mind that was unshakable. He knew that Arafat is a better actor than was Sir Laurence Olivier. He knew that while we were creating a partnership with the PLO, Arafat was creating a tacit partnership with Hamas.

We kept giving and he kept standing by, watching the killing. We thought we had no alternative but to try for peace and he felt he had no alternative but to achieve on his terms; the kind of peace that would result in the whole of Israel in the hands of the Arabs.

And undeterred, while he faced consistent ridicule, he was constantly pleading and begging every citizen, minister, prime minister, and anybody he bumped into, that the idea of land for peace is a brilliant idea if you made a deal with a peace partner with real intent. But Arafat is only interested in more land for waging more war.

Sharon knew that the Israelis were in the midst of a delusional, self-serving fantasy. While the Israelis wanted to make believe they were involved in the peace process, we were not involved in a peace process with a true partner in peace. Sharon was the only leader who saw through the charade and had the strength and determination to call it as he saw it.

Sharon had the guts and the fierce determination to run against the popularity polls and state a very unpopular opinion, putting at risk his reputation and his political future. And that is precisely why he is the right person to lead this great nation called Israel at this critical moment in history.

Truman led a country just out of a great war; a country whose people were sick of war and wanted desperately to return to a peaceful existence.

Truman also realized that on the horizon was an enemy -- the Soviet Union -- who was bent on world domination. So Truman stood fast and made unpopular decisions first in Greece, then Berlin, and finally in Korea. It was only in the fullness of time that we were able to see how right he was.

Therein lies the similarity between the simple haberdasher from Missouri, and Ariel Sharon.

JWR contributors Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder need no introduction. Comment on this column by clicking here.


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02/14/00: She Flunked!

© 2001, Jackie Mason & Raul Felder. A version of this article first appeared in The Jerusalem Post.