“Don’t work too hard. Keep rational hours! Watch what you eat. I want to see a slimmer Sharon! We need your leadership and your courage to get to peace.” Sharon replied that the two of them can accomplish many things; “I have no doubt I can move forward,” he said, “as long as the terror stops; Israel will not cooperate with terror.” That was the last time they spoke.
On January 4, 2006, at his ranch, Sharon suffered the massive stroke from which he never recovered. His death was expected, and we in Washington laid plans for the funeral; the president intended to go. I wrote a eulogy for the president to read at the funeral, and kept the final version, worked over by the speechwriters, with me over the next few months so it would be handy when Sharon died:
Ariel Sharon also knew this land as a soldier. He enlisted in the struggle for a Jewish homeland as a boy … fought in all of Israel ’s wars … and was severely wounded in battle. Over an army career, he became familiar with every inch of the terrain. He knew how high the hills were … how broad the rivers … where enemies would be likely to hide or strike. And knew he that the land he loved needed both swords and plowshares to prosper in an environment always harsh and often hostile. Ariel Sharon was a brilliant general—and led Israel to some of its most celebrated victories. His experience also taught him the costs of war. In his autobiography, he wrote that “at the age of twenty, most of my friends were dead.” Because he understood these costs, he believed so deeply in keeping Israel strong. Because he understood these costs, the man who made his reputation in battle would also leave his mark as a peacemaker.
In his pursuit of peace, Prime Minister Sharon proved as daring and resourceful as he had been as a general and tank commander. As leader of his nation, he made decisions that caused him great personal pain—and that he knew would be unpopular with many who had been his closest supporters. Yet he stood by his decisions, for this warrior did not dream of more victory in battle; he dreamed of peace for the people he led. And when he committed Israel to a new plan for peace, he did so on the same terms that he had insisted on throughout his life – from a position of strength.
Bringing peace to his people was his life’s work, and Ariel Sharon kept at it up to the moment of his stroke. His energy and determination were a source of inspiration to men many years his junior. As the Scriptures say of Moses, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.