A significant part of Ariel Sharon's life was spent as a farmer-soldier, perhaps just like one of the Biblical judges of old: He defended his village, repulsed and pursued his enemies, conquered and destroyed their villages, built new ones, defended them, and pursued his enemies.
A life that began as an armed skirmish between farm kids and shepherds snowballed into armed battles in Sinai. But Sharon remained, just about until the end of his life, the same Sharon, from the War of Independence to the Yom Kippur War to the Lebanon War to the Gaza disengagement plan.
It would appear that Sharon's life had two guiding principles:
- That which can't be accomplished with force can be accomplished with more force.
- We will establish facts on the ground. The Arabs will have to live with them, and the rest of the world had better get used to it.
A quick flip through Israel's history book reminds us that the man with the white bandage around his head at the Suez Canal, threatening the politicians to set his fighters on them should they dare surrender even one small thing to the enemy.
In another photograph, the general is pictured coming down the Shouf Mountains, bearing down on Beirut in order to make, both in Lebanon and the Middle East in general, a "new order."
For more than 30 years Sharon planted hundreds of settlements and hundreds of thousands of settlers in the West Bank, Gaza, at the entrance to Rafah and the Golan Heights. He was a conquering hero, and settled people there wild-west style.
For decades, I was disgusted. To me, he symbolized much of what I can't accept from my country: violent righteousness, a blend of iron muscle and personal mercy, national greed and an insatiable personality. The religious-mystical phrases that came from the mouth of this secular warrior always sounded hypocritical to me.
And so no one symbolized drunken Israeli power for me, the "one blow and it's over" phenomenon, more than Sharon.
I never met him personally. They say that in a small group he was warm, giving and magical. I have heard said that he had a good sense of humor, a pleasant demeanor and a large appetite for luxury and good food.
And all of a sudden, a couple of years ago, in front of our very eyes and almost overnight, a mysterious change came over him. His rhetoric changed completely. All of a sudden he began using words and phrases borrowed from the peace camp.
I admit, when I first heard Sharon's new line, about two years ago, that occupation was bad for the occupier and bad for the occupied, I couldn't believe my ears.
When he started to speak about two states for two peoples, I suspected he was ridiculing the left. And when he spoke about pulling out of occupied territories, I worried it was some sort of trick. I couldn't believe he would actually carry out a disengagement plan.
I was wrong.
Bulldozer, start to finish
Sharon was a bulldozer from start to finish. His entire life was like a lighting war. That's the way it was on the battlefield, that the way it was when he captured the Likud, that's the way it was during elections, that's the way the disengagement was carried out.
Without mercy, the bulldozer turned on his favorite children, the settlers, and wouldn't rest until there was no trace of them left in Gaza. Not one settler, not one building. Sharon waged peace the same way he waged war.
Did he really intend to continue uprooting settlements in Samaria? Judea? Some of them? All of them? By agreement? Without any agreement?
Maybe he really wanted to capture peace by force, like any other military target. But he ran out of time. 60 years this warrior expanded borders, leaving just a year-and-a-half for him to dismantle his life's work.
Never spoke peace
There was one thing Sharon failed to accomplish, not with a rifle and not with an olive branch: He never managed to sit with the Palestinians, to speak to them, neighbor-to-neighbor. To speak as one wounded family member to another. Not even as grandfather to grandfather after a "family" feud.
And now he is leaving us, signaling: I understand the mistakes I've made. I tried to fix them. Or destroy them. I didn't manage to finish the job. Life is too short.
And what will his heirs do? Instead of repeating Sharon's mistakes, or destroying his mistakes, will they try to heal them?
Amos Oz is one of Israel's most celebrated authors and has been one of the leading figures of "Peace Now" since its founding in 1977