Israel's Distinguished Military Historian Dr. Uri Milstein: "Arik Sharon is a Unique Professional Military Leader"
by Staff Reporter
"Arik Sharon is a unique professional military leader in the long history of Israel's military encounters. He is a super model of a commander who built his military career only on personal achievements in the battle fields. He was a genius of military creativity," remarked Israel's distinguished military historian Dr. Uri Milstein. Milstein's many publications have been a must to those who would like to understand Israel's military history as well as the rising of its military-security-defense elite. Recently, his major work has been translated to English: 'History of Israel's Independence War Vol. 1 to Vol. 5 (see: University of America Press, Lanhorn, Maryland, 1998). These volumes are a must for every one who wants to understand Israel's life and fate as well.
Dr. Milstein believes that the Israeli military elite, as a matter of history, was established by Ben-Gurion and his ruling party Mapai. This elite has been more of a political entity which followed the party's orders rather than a pure military entity. Arik Sharon was an exception, argues Dr. Milstein, he was a product of pure military achievements in the battlefield. He was a true original military professional. Therefore, as a 'Military Knight' Sharon's promotion was slow because he was not a political soldier. At the end the elite refused to appoint him as Israel's army Chief of Staff. Indeed, this military 'Commander of the Commanders' was so important that the elite had to use his talents especially in the post-1948 era in which the Israeli army was weak and immature.
Then Chief of Staff, Gen. Mordecai Makleff, decided to appoint Sharon as a commander of a new special operation unit, namely 'Unit 101'. It functioned successfully in 1953 but only for 4 months. Why? Moshe Dayan, the new Chief of Staff, dismantled it because of non-military considerations. But he could not dismantle the judgement of history: 101 turned out to be a legend. Its members became national heroes, such as Meir Har-Tsion. They became models of heroism and improvisations to be copied. They were a new elite of 'Knights' in our military legacy. Arik Sharon was the soul of this unit (the legendary platoon). Dayan knew that he must use Sharon's talents. The Israeli army of the 1950s was a weak army. Sharon was appointed as the new commander of Israel's legendary paratroopers battalion or 'Battalion 890'. Legendary? Yes, because Sharon, its commander, made it a legend.
'101' and '890' shaped the future of the Israeli army. They became its soul, its spirit, its set of values. And in 1956, Sharon demonstrated again, in the 'Sinai Campaign' that he is a unique commander and a unique leader in battle. From 1956 'Tsahal' has been just an enlargement (quantitatively) of '101' and '890' for many years to come. Dr. Milstein explained that the military elite which did not like Arik pushed him aside (it followed the party orders), an act which damaged future military achievements.
The elite developed their own military concepts which according to Milstein only reduced the level of Tsahal's effectiveness and even caused failures in the future. The epitome of the anti-Sharon approach was the fact that he was not appointed as Israel's Chief of Staff. Dr. Milstein argued that Sharon in the military front, Sharon as a commander, was always right, always came with the right solution or idea. In the Yom Kippur War (1973) the elite, which followed the party's orders which helped the party to survive politically, reached a point of demise, of collapse on the brink of an abyss. Israel almost lost its existence, physically. Then the elite called on Sharon, the great General, to save Israel's life. He had to encounter his enemies inside the elite but he won, and later cross the canal with his soldiers on the way to Cahiro.
He found the military solution. It was not a surprise to hear the soldiers, the heroes, declaring: 'Arik the King of the Jews.' Gen. (Ret) Arik Sharon did the impossible: he turned a dangerous collapse into a great victory. Sharon left the army in frustration and then decided to go into politics, into a different front. But we must never forget his unique military legacy!
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