Ariel Sharon: Stopping at Red Lights

On January 14th, Tom Friedman, while commemorating the death of Ariel Sharon, cited "a Hebrew biography of him [Sharon] entitled "He Doesn't Stop at Red Lights."" I beg to differ.

In the spring of 1981, while still running CNN, I was introduced to Martin Abend, a Jewish right-wing commentator on New York's Channel Five (WNEW) who had just been fired by the station. Ted Kavanau, his former boss at WNEW, wanted me to bring him to CNN. This was before I created Crossfire and I told them there were no jobs open. Abend offered me an exclusive story -- he told me that the Israelis were planning to invade Lebanon in May of that year and that Sharon was hoping to team up with the Christian Phalangists and drive Yasir Arafat and all the Palestinian refugees out of Lebanon. That was a hell of a story and I told Abend that if it was right, he'd have a job.

CNN had a reporter, Jay Bushinsky, based in Jerusalem. Dan Schorr, CNN's most celebrated reporter was sent to join him. Bill Zimmerman, perhaps our best reporter, was sent to Beirut to cover the other side of the war, but the war never happened. According to my sources, President Reagan had put up a red light, Ariel Sharon and the rest of the Israelis stopped, and we never hired Martin Abend.

One year later, in June of '82, after I left CNN, the red light turned to green, Sharon took his army north and the war began. Sometime later, Bushinsky and his camera crew discovered a LST on the beach in Israel loading personel and tanks for what he discovered was a landing south of the Lebanon/Turkish border which was to sweep down from the north and win the war for Sharon and his Christian allies. Israeli censors refused to let Bushinsky file the story and a half hour later the soldiers and the tanks were seen disembarking from the LST. Once again, according to Bushinsky, President Reagan had said no. Once again, Sharon was stopped by a red light.

The war itself ended in a fiasco. According to Friedman, Sharon's attempt to team up "with the Christian Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel... and to install Gemayel as a pro-Israeli President in Beirut." The war was an utter failure. Hezbollah was introduced into Syria and killed more than 200 U.S. Marines who had been sent in in an attempt to end the hostilities. Gemayel was assassinated and Israeli troops pulled out, except for a small force left to patrol the Lebanon side of the Israeli/Lebanon border.

Running red lights is very dangerous, but sometimes stopping at them doesn't end up any better.