Perhaps it's an ancient streak of totemism in me, but I've always been struck by how many politicians remind me of animals.
George W. Bush makes me think of a lean hunting dog. And Ariel Sharon? He's easy. He's an old sea turtle.
You can't mistake him for anything else. The huge, almost round girth of him. The leathery neck. The massive head with its heavy-lidded, slowly blinking eyes. The rolling walk, arms paddling the air like flippers as if swimming through it. There's even a shell all around him – tough, protective and impenetrable. It's covered with scratches and dents where his enemies couldn't get through. And look at those jaws. I wouldn't want to be a fish caught in them.
Thank God for the old sea turtle. Where would we be today without him? It's not just that he's so cunning and indomitable. You can't out-feint him, and you can't deflect him from his way. He just goes paddling on.
It's also that there's simply no one else. Who could take Sharon's place if the sharks got through that tough carapace? Sharon is the single politician in this country who is capable of doing what needs to be done – which is to disentangle ourselves from the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank before it's too late, and we're stuck there forever.
This, of course, is what the settlers and their supporters want. If I were a patient Palestinian, it would be what I wanted, too.
It's so obvious that it's almost incomprehensible to me how the more intelligent opponents of disengagement don't get it. Of course, disengagement is risky. Of course, it's a betrayal of thousands of settlers who have given the best years of their lives to what seemed to them – and to me – a noble cause.
But it doesn't begin to compare in risk to what will happen – will, not may or might or can – when we Jews wake up one day to discover that we have become a minority in our own country, and that having nobly insisted on keeping it all, we have lost it all. This isn't a fanciful doomsday scenario; it's simple demographic facts.
The opponents of disengagement – and make no mistake about it, disengagement from Gaza will have been next to meaningless if not followed by disengagement in Judea and Samaria, too – both on the left and right, are selling us pie-in-the-sky. It just comes in two different flavors.
One flavor is peace pie. Why disengage unilaterally from the territories when, if we just make the right concessions, including a total or near-total withdrawal to the 1967 borders, we and the Palestinians can have a nice, signed agreement that will usher in the millennium?
That's nonsense. There's no nice, signed agreement in the offing, and if there were one, it wouldn't last very long.
The other flavor is faith pie. If we just stick to our rights and our guns, God will see us safely through.
That's nonsense, too. The God who saw us "safely" through the Holocaust will not be bothered by lesser horrors, like demography.
This leaves us with only one rational course: to trust neither the Palestinians nor the Heavens, and withdraw unilaterally to optimal borders – which will have a maximum of Jews and Jewish settlements within them and a maximum of Palestinians outside them – and to settle down there for the long haul. It will not be an easy haul and it will still be fraught with dangers, but these will be far smaller than the dangers of staying where we are.
This is where the old sea turtle is paddling. God give him strength and years enough to get there. Yes, yes, we know all about him. He's secretive. He's treacherous. He's unprincipled. He's corrupt.
Well, suppose he is. And to punish Sharon for his financial scams, Israelis have to end up like the whites of South Africa?
The sharks are circling around him. Let's keep in mind that if they get him, we're left without anyone to take us where we need to go. The rest of Israel's political menagerie don't add up to a single strong, sensible leader. And there's no time left for weak ones.
Hillel Halkin is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.