Yesterday, right-wing hawk Ariel Sharon decisively defeated Ehud Barak in the Israeli election for Prime Minister.
In his victory speech, Sharon called on the Palestinians to end their uprising and negotiate what he described as arealistic peace. He said any accord with the Palestinians would have to protect Israel’s vital interests, includingan undivided Jerusalem.
Born in Palestine in 1928, Sharon has been a soldier for much of his life. During the Six Day war of 1967 in whichIsrael captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he commanded a division. The harsh occupation measuresthat he enforced there gave many Palestinians their first taste of a man who has become their sworn enemy.
Elected to parliament in 1977, Sharon masterminded Israel’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
As defense minister, and without explicitly telling Prime Minister Menachem Begin, he sent the Israeli army all theway to Beirut, a strike that ended in the expulsion of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fromLebanon.
The move stopped the PLO using Lebanon to launch attacks against Israel, but also resulted in the massacre ofhundreds of Palestinians by Lebanese Christian militiamen in Sabra and Chatila two Beirut refugee camps underIsraeli control.
Sharon was removed from office in 1983 by an Israeli tribunal investigating the 1982 Lebanon invasion, finding himindirectly responsible for the killings.
For most politicians, an indictment of that kind would have meant the end of a political career. But Sharon bidedhis time. His popularity among the Israeli hard right was enhanced during the early 1990s, when, as housingminister, Sharon presided over the extensive building of Jewish settlements in occupied West Bank and Gaza.
His controversial visit last year to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, a site which is also holy toJews, sparked the second Palestinian intifada.
Joining us from Beirut to access Sharon’s legacy, is Robert Fisk, who reported on the Sabra and Chetilla massacres18 years ago.
- Robert Fisk, correspondent for the Independent of London from Lebanon.