“The one who set up this whole enterprise was Sharon, and if, toward the end of his life, he is inspired to remove the settlements, in my opinion we must safeguard him, not only from political, but also from legal problems.” This statement was made not by associates of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but by journalist Amnon Rabinowitz, a television Channel Two analyst, from the podium at a conference on the subject of disengagement.

In recent months many complaints were made by right wingers who oppose disengagement, saying that many journalists do not come down hard on the prime minister because they support the disengagement plan. The statements brought here make it clear that in as far as Abramowitz, who is a senior Israeli journalist, is concerned, apparently the right wingers are right. At least, judging by his own statements.

Abramowitz made these statements about two months ago, at a seminar on the disengagement plan at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. The panel discussion, which dealt with Israeli politics, was attended by Abramowitz and Nahum Barnea, a Yedioth Ahronoth commentator. It was emceed by Amir Oren, a Ha’aretz military and security commentator.

“I, in contrast to emcee Oren, think that Sharon should be watched over like an etrog [citron fruit used in the Sukkot holiday that must be carefully stored], putting him into a sealed box, with a sponge and cotton balls,” said Abramowitz from the podium, to the sound of laughter from the audience.

“And with a television set,” commented Oren. “A television too, certainly,” confirmed Abramowitz with a smile, “because he is the only one who is really capable of carrying this out. After all, he is the one who founded this enterprise.”

Barnea had reservations. “I have no interest or intention of watching over Sharon beyond his maintaining the law, justice and using common sense,” he said in response. “It could be that on the day after the disengagement we will wake up and ask ourselves what we lost on the way, things unconnected to disengagement. After all, we are a country that needs to address many more things than your very very serious and respectable wish (referring to Abramowitz) to see the settlement enterprise moving to a rational track.”

Apparently Abramowitz was not swayed. Later in the panel, he continued in the same vein: “Over the years you (Barnea and Oren) have been writing the same article against the occupation, and when Sharon goes and takes this on himself, the question is what is the role of the newspapers, whose agenda, as mentioned, for many years was dictated by the question of the occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. Must it support him, not support him, envelop him. Before I spoke about keeping him safe as an etrog, and Nahum had reservations. I am prepared to compromise: like an etrog until the end of September 2005. Afterwards we will reconsider. If this has been our main agenda for years, the question is what is the role of the media? As a take off point, our attitude to the politicians is exactly like theirs to us. It is functional, and in extreme cases, such as Ehud Barak and perhaps others, even instrumental. But I don’t expect of them what I don’t think they expect of me. If this serves your comprehensive world view-and it doesn’t matter for the moment if we are talking about politics, the rule of law, strikes or whatever-support or reservations must be corresponding. I am talking about people who work in the media who are allowed or who can legitimately let their opinions be known. I am not talking about hard news. If I think that Sharon will be the first who is about to remove the settlements and begin the end of the occupation of 1967, I think that he deserves support. if Sharon comes along and ‘went crazy’ as his opponents say, then I am in favor of this craziness and my support must accordingly be given.”

Amnon Abramowitz commented, “This was a serious discussion, thanks at least to both my colleagues, and what you quoted is an accurate part of an entire picture. And anyone interested in more, I invite him to read my article which will be published soon in the magazine Haayin Hashviit.”

This piece ran in the April 26th edition of Maariv

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