There wasn’t much Ariel Sharon news on Sunday — he’s still dead, his funeral is still scheduled for Monday — but, as is fitting for a man of his stature, papers are filled with coverage of the man and his legacy.
The one thing that did happen Sunday — his body lying in state outside the Knesset — garners the most prominent coverage, along with plans for his funeral. “Taking leave with a march,” reads Israel Hayom, which, together with a picture of Sharon’s flag-draped coffin outside the Knesset, has the most straightforward front page. Maariv, running a picture of soldiers guarding Sharon’s gravesite in the south, looks ahead to the funeral and notes that officials fear a rocket attack during the high-profile ceremony, which will take place at Sharon’s Sycamore Farm, a Kassam’s throw from Gaza.
Yedioth Ahronoth again goes for the sentimental, adorning its front page with an otherworldly picture of Sharon standing in a field along with lyrics from what it says is his favorite song, courtesy of Naomi Shemer (and a very poor translation by yours truly): “You are a shepherd and I am here in the village / Almost everything remains the same / I pass through a green field /and you to the fence / and on Friday nights / the harvest wind / passes through the darkened treetops.”
Haaretz meanwhile forgoes funeral news on A1 (only a standalone picture of people photographing Sharon’s coffin marks the event on the front page) to report on Wikileaks documents that show that Sharon was willing to take major steps to pull out of the West Bank, as he did with Gaza, before he was stopped short by the cerebral hemorrhage that put him in a coma for eight years.
According to a cable by then-US ambassador Dan Kurtzer, “Sharon put emphasis on annexing the major settlement blocs, implying he would concede other parts of the West Bank, and that while he would not even discuss dividing Jerusalem, he would consider handing over some Arab neighborhoods, ‘but not the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives or the City of David,’” the paper reports.
It goes on to say that Sharon attempted to coordinate the Gaza pullout with the Palestinian Authority, but talks between the sides broke down as rocket fire continued, with one even hitting Sharon’s ranch.
Noting that those security fears have not faded, Maariv reports on the extra security expected to surround the funeral, including the moving around of Iron Dome anti-missile batteries already in the area, preparing to add more anti-missile batteries if need be and keeping Israeli planes circling overhead to identify threats before they can be carried out.
Writing a less than glowing appreciation of Sharon, the paper’s Ben Dror Yemini says that the leader made two major mistakes during his long and storied political career, putting Israel into “the binational mud” by overextending the settlement enterprise and helping strengthen Hamas with the Gaza pullout:
“The disengagement led to Operation Cast Lead, which did not break Hamas, but did lead to the Goldstone report, which made Israel into a war criminal. And it’s only continuing. It’s only a matter of time until Hamas, an anti-Semitic jihadist organization, becomes seen as the moderate compared to other actors flowering there. For that we can thank the disengagement, which became one of the harshest chapters in the country’s history. This isn’t an issue of a right or left worldview. This is the objective result.”
Settlement leader Dani Dayan, writing in Israel Hayom, seems a bit more forgiving, at least until after the weeklong shiva mourning period, saying that for now he will remember the Sharon of before the disengagement, when he was still a hero of the settlement movement and the security apparatus.
“The week I will remember Sharon as the greatest Jewish military man since the days of the Maccabees,” he writes. “This week I will remember the Sharon who planted settlements across the Land of Israel, in Samaria and the Galilee, in Judea and the Negev, in the Judean lowland and the coastal plain, and changed the landscape of our land. This week I will remember the Ariel Sharon who mocked those who said you can’t end terror by military means, the prime minister who gave the order for Operation Defensive Shield, saving thousands of Jewish lives. I will only remember this Arik this week.”
Yedioth, meanwhile, surveys the thousands who came to the Knesset to pay their last respects Sunday, finding a group of people who all found some way to connect to the general turned politician. One woman tells of growing up in Hod Hasharon, near Sharon’s hometown of Kfar Malal, and seeing his picture on a local election poster when she was 6 years old. “Someone tried to take it down and I pasted it back up. Suddenly a woman came by on a donkey, stopped next to me, got down, patted me on the head and said ‘I’m Vera, that’s my son’ and pointed to the picture. I came to Jerusalem to tell Arik thanks for everything and to quietly tell him about my childhood memory.”
Yedioth also tackles political, non-Sharon, news, running the provocative headline “Protecting the Jordan Valley; Jerusalem, not so much.” The vote that so got the ire of the paper? The Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s nixing of a bill that would make it so Jerusalem and refugees could not be discussed in talks with the Palestinians without Knesset approval. The vote comes on the heels of the approval of a bill by the same panel which would annex the Jordan Valley (which is also expected to get knocked down). According to the paper, the ministers opposed the bill, which critics say would tie negotiators’ hands, once it became clear its main purpose was to help MK Miri Regev make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look bad.
“We don’t need a provocative bill by Miri Regev to prove that we are able to protect Jerusalem,” one person on the committee told the paper. “This seems a personal issue between Regev and Netanyahu and we didn’t want to help it along.”
Negotiators aren’t the only ones getting tied up. Maariv reports that a daycare worker in the settlement of Tekoa was caught tying children to a pole when she needed to clean the floor. Needless to say, parents were not so pleased, though they think it’s a holdover from the teacher’s past as a native of another country. “She didn’t mean any harm,” the paper quotes a parent saying. “We’re talking about a person loved by parents and kids alike.”
In Haaretz’s op-ed page, Aluf Benn posits that Ariel Sharon’s successor is none other than Yair Lapid, the great hero of … the battle for TV ratings? “More than any other politician, Sharon and Lapid represented the image of the sabra, each in his own generation: Arik, an Uzi in his hand, a bandage on his head and a lamb draped over his shoulders; Yair with his black blazer and his American references. In short, people like you, with a simple message, not sophisticated highbrows.”