Ariel Sharon: “These Years Have Been Exciting”
What is your assessment of the week? Victory, defeats, the end of a career, of an ambition?
You can make the assessment yourself; there is no doubt that it was tough, but the fact is that I am still a government member.
Is that so important?
Very important. Not the personal aspect but the political implication. I do not deny that these years in the cabinet have been exciting; taking decisions, doing things, creating new situations. But that is not the most important thing. I wanted to remain a member of the government to promote the cause which I regard as most important—the cause of Eretz Israel.
But you are no longer defense minister. What influence will you have in the cabinet?
I start work on my farm tomorrow. I will attend the cabinet meetings each Sunday. If I am given jobs I will do them. But I can assure you of one thing: A cabinet with Sharon is not the same as a cabinet without Sharon.
Menachem Begin is seen as having been the cleverer of the two of you. He is seen as having come through unscathed, having centered the whole political campaign on your resignation without being called into question himself.
I leave it to others to judge the prime minister’s actions. I can only explain my actions. From the start I had to avoid the double trap awaiting me: on the one hand being forced to tender my resignation and on the other being sacked. I succeeded. I did not resign and I was not sacked.
I carefully studied the constitution on the government. I decided from the start that the solution should lie in Article 17, which refers to a transfer of duties within the cabinet. I was behind the proposals for that. When Begin accepted them I informed him that I was prepared to hand the defense portfolio back to him. I did not tender my resignation in my letter and I specified that I do not intend to leave the government.
How will you feel in the company of 16 colleagues who all voted against you?
Those colleagues obviously have a problem…. They thought they had gotten rid of Sharon. They will have to get used to the situation.
Do you feel betrayed?
Unfortunately that is politics. We had differences of opinion, even quarrels in the army too. But within limits. In political life those limits do not exist. But I am a strong man….
Have you nothing to say about the report published by the commission of inquiry?
First it should be noted that I am the only person among all those cited by the commission who has shouldered his responsibilities, the only one who acted on the report and paid the price. I am the only one, you see.
There are the generals, too….
I tell you that I am the only one.
Aside from the personal consequences, what do you think of the inquiry’s conclusions?
Without going into details, there is one thing which I totally reject—the assertion by the commission that Israel—hence the whole state, its army, the population, you as much as I—bears indirect responsibility for the massacres. That is unacceptable. I will continue to insist that that sentence be removed from the report, lt is an accusation which will not be erased in the next 10 generations.
—Le Matin, February 16, 1983
Eitan: “My Conscience Is Clear”
We know that you will not speak about the inquiry commission, but does what happened in Sabra and Shatila disturb your sleep?
My conscience is clear on the matter of Sabra and Shatila. lt was not our hand that was in the massacre. Our moral standard was not impaired or damaged. That is the way those Arabs, there in Lebanon, have been behaving for many years. If the IDF had been guilty of anything—of anything—it would have disturbed my rest, but the IDF is not guilty of anything.
With hindsight, against the background of information you had at the time, are you at peace with that, with the decision to introduce the Phalangists into the camps?
The decision to introduce Phalangists into fighting in the western areas of Beirut was known and agreed upon many months before that, perhaps even two years earlier, and so there was nothing new or unusual in their participation in the fighting there.
—Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan on IDF radio, March 29, 1983