Ari Shavit has an insightful article, “The Samurai of Zionism,” in this week’s New Yorker, drawn from numerous private interviews with Ariel Sharon beginning in 1999. Sharon’s statements suggest a significant, if not radical, departure from the classic Zionist view of the Diaspora as something that should be or could be discarded. Rather, he appeared to look at these traits as normative to the Jewish people, and to accept that these cultural values as normative as well. And though he certainly noted the practical downside of these values, he did not, unlike many Zionists, expect or excoriate Jews to divest of their galut mentality, as he did not seem to believe that was even a possibility. He seemed to view the State as a part of the Diaspora even as it changed its rules, and Sharon himself did not qualify his own primary identity as Israeli, but rather, prefered to stick to just Jewish. It seems worth mentioning that these statements were made (and these interviews were granted) to a writer who had originally intended this piece to appear in Haaretz, not an American periodical.
Surprisingly, this secular, Israeli-born soldier defined himself not as an Israeli but as a Jew[…] I wondered how Sharon felt about the changed world opinion in much of the world. The Arab world, and many on the left elsewhere, would never forgive him his early career…But now he was widely respected, even revered…“This doesn’t intoxicate me,” he said…“Above all, I’m a Jew. And I realize how they came to like me. If the Jews were to disappear, they’d also be happy.”
Sharon was the least messianic of Israel’s Prime Ministers…it was Sharon who brought to fruition a post-messianic politics. Under his governance, Israel was weaned of the hope for an ideal end.
The story doesn’t seem to be online, but here’s an interview with Shavit himself from the current edition of The (We’re Too Self-Important To Put Our Magazine Content Online) New Yorker.