To add to the picture of Ariel Sharon in the aftermath of his death, euronews spoke to one of his former senior advisors, one of Israel’s leading spokesmen, Dr. Raanan Gissin.
As a strategist Gissin was involved in the peace process with Egypt, the war in Lebanon and the Intifada. During the first Gulf War, he was responsible for many journalists operating from Israel. Later he was spokesman for the Ministry of Infrastructures. He remains a leading voice in the media and analysis.
Our man in Tel Aviv interviewed him.
Luis Carballo, euronews: “What was the most difficult decision Sharon had to take?”
Dr. Raanan Gissin, former senior advisor to Ariel Sharon: “I think removing settlements from Gaza and from Judea and Sumeria was the most difficult thing that he did. Because for him Israel is built by settlements: the whole of Israel. Israel in the future will be a Jewish state for all the Jews in the world, and the settlement was an important element in building. He was the builder of settlements throughout, for more than 20 years.”
euronews: “What was the measure he was most proud of, maybe this one also?”
Gissin: “Most all he was most proud of things that he accomplished in Israel: agriculture, the land, the fact that more settlements have been built, that more people have come to Israel, immigration, Jews coming from all over the world coming to Israel and establishing a strong Jewish state. I think, also, that he was proud that Israel has a strong army, one of the strongest in the world. He was very proud of this, because this is what enabled Israel to achieve the… [sentence left unfinished.] He remembered his life experience in 1948 when he was almost killed in the Battle for Latrun, when he was… with his people trying to save members of his squad, bringing them to safety, and dragging them. He himself was wounded, dragging his warriors, to try to bring them so safety, to the infirmary.”
euronews: “After the withdrawal from Gaza, would he have ordered a similar measure from the West Bank? Were there any such plans to do the same in the West Bank, dismantling settlements there?”
Gissin: “I think there is no doubt that that would have been a consideration. He would have considered changing if that had served the ultimate purpose of establishing a strong Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state. If that [had been] necessary from a tactical point of view he would have done it. I don’t know whether eventually he would have reached a peace agreement with the Palestinians, as we wished, but at least what he set in mind to do would add people. The important thing in Israel, you have to understand, is that we are a nation that is divided, with so many differences, is that he was the one person that could take the people of Israel in the most difficult issue.”
euronews: “Did he ever express any regret about the massacres in Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, and overall about the whole operation in Lebanon, the whole war in Lebanon, did he express any regret?”
Gissin: “Sabra and Shatila was a mistake. Sabra and Shatila was a mishap that happened in Lebanon. But the overall perception of what… to remove the terrorists from Lebanon and secure Israel as he did, he never changed in that. I think he regretted what happened in Sabra and Shatila. But, then again, we learned about Lebanon only right after — who Lebanon was and what problems we had there — only after that. But he took on himself a part of the responsibility of what he did, and we paid for it. There was a trial in Israel and a commission. He never swayed away from Israel. He said, ‘yes, people left me a [br…?]’ —- ‘but I took the decision because I thought that was the right decision at the right time, and I fully accept what I did, and I agree with what I did because I did it for the good of Israel.”