Arik: The Life of Ariel Sharon

David Lan­dau
  • Review
By – March 13, 2014

This almost two-inch thick tome is filled with Israeli his­to­ry and the influ­ence upon it by one of Israel’s great­est lead­ers. Although the author unfor­tu­nate­ly nev­er inter­viewed Sharon, the book vivid­ly con­veys the sit­u­a­tions involved and the unbe­liev­ably strange per­sonality of its sub­ject. Author David Lan­dau, a British-born jour­nal­ist, lives in Jerusalem. He is famil­iar to many Amer­i­cans as the Israel cor­re­spon­dent for The Econ­o­mist.

As Lan­dau tells the sto­ry, Sharon emerges as an unlike­ly hero. In ear­ly com­bat he col­lapsed under stress and led his troops from the rear. Among oth­er pres­sures, he bore the guilt for the hideous Lebanon mas­sacre. He was harsh, ready to kill Arabs house by house. He was devi­ous, a habit­u­al liar, on one occa­sion invit­ing Jor­da­ni­ans to eat and then kid­nap­ping them. In per­son­al rela­tion­ships and in his mil­i­tary career Arik suf­fered from one glar­ing inad­e­qua­cy: Peo­ple tend to feel you’re not a decent human being,” one supe­ri­or told him. The book implies that Sharon’s tough-guy image stems from his dri­ven child­hood on his ear­ly Israeli pio­neer farm. 

What a hero! But hero he became, as he de­veloped greater mil­i­tary skills and used them to huge advan­tage in the Yom Kip­pur War, turn­ing defeat into vic­to­ry. King of Israel” Lan­dau calls him — arro­gant, manip­u­la­tive, a mas­ter of self-pro­mo­tion,” says the author. But he was wor­shipped by his fellow-citizens. 

The future lay in pol­i­tics, but Sharon’s bruis­ing style brought frus­tra­tion to his col­leagues and to his Amer­i­can allies. A cham­pi­on of the set­tle­ment move­ment, Arik found mem­bers of Peace Now to be close to the PLO mur­der­ers.” Final­ly, after rough polit­i­cal war­fare Sharon rose to the pre­mier­ship. Here his admin­is­tra­tion took the his­toric step of yield­ing the Gaza Strip and some of the West Bank to the Pales­tini­ans. His coun­try­men were divid­ed in their reac­tion, but both sides were furi­ous in their response. It was dur­ing this uproar that Sharon had a small stroke, which under inad­e­quate med­ical care, devel­oped into a mas­sive stroke. 

Read­ers look­ing for fast-mov­ing pop­u­lar lit­er­a­ture will not find it here. Mr. Landau’s thor­ough, exhaus­tive work includes many pages which serve mere­ly as back­ground for a Sharon prob­lem. This is, of course, a notable book that belongs in all seri­ous libraries and book­stores and on col­lege read­ing lists, par­tic­u­lar­ly those that are Jew­ish-ori­ent­ed. Appen­dix, bib­li­og­ra­phy, illus­tra­tions, index, inter­views, notes, pho­tographs, preface.

Relat­ed content:

Jane Waller­stein worked in pub­lic rela­tions for many years. She is the author of Voic­es from the Pater­son Silk Mills and co-author of a nation­al crim­i­nal jus­tice study of parole for Rut­gers University.

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