Ariel Sharon is both hero and bogeyman: brilliant military tactician and rogue general, master both of the pre-emptive strike and of the cover-up, populist leader and - in the eyes of liberal Israelis - perennial threat to Israel's democracy. Uzi Benziman's portrait is a commendable first attempt to evaluate the Sharon phenomenon. It is a journalist's book - lively and readable, though sloppily translated and edited. The English edition, moreover, lacks the political glossary and the maps which are essential in a book which deals with the Middle East conflict. It has been subtitled 'An Israeli Caesar', and the nearest contemporary parallel would be Douglas MacArthur, the audacious general whose political ambitions had to be curbed by the American President - Truman. The proximity of Israel's military leadership to the political hinterland, and a well-informed and critical press, have ensured that few of Sharon's moves have been kept from the public for long. Why, then, despite his proven disregard for authority in the Army, and his belief that national security outweighs democratic procedures, has Sharon been allowed so loose a rein?
LRB 26 November 1987 | PDF Download