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Ariel Sharon: Israel’s Front Man

What are Ariel Sharon’s thoughts on the Middle East — and what do others have to say about his role?

May 14, 2002

What are Ariel Sharon's thoughts on the Middle East — and what do others have to say about his role?

To understand Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, one must look at his biography. At the age of 14, he joined a militia organization to fight for a new Israeli state. He later commanded infantry in the 1948 war and went on to found the “101” commando unit. Mr. Sharon has distinguished himself in each of Israel’s major wars and, now, the Prime Minister is fighting new wars — against Palestinians and his own Likud Party. Our new Read My Lips feature explores his thoughts on the Middle East conflict — and what others have to say about his role.

In Mr. Sharon’s view, who is responsible for the violence?

“I personally, myself and my government, regard (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat as an obstacle to peace.”

(Ariel Sharon, February 2002)

Why is that?

“I don’t know anyone who has so much civilian Jewish blood on his hands since Hitler.”

(Ariel Sharon, October 2001)

Has Israel proposed a political solution to the conflict in the past?

“Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else gave them before, the possibility of forming a state.”

(Ariel Sharon, September 2001)

What is the attitude of Mr. Sharon’s own Likud Party to this solution?

“A state with all the rights of a state — this cannot be, not under Arafat, not under another leadership, not today, nor tomorrow.”

(Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after a party vote rejecting a Palestinian state, May 2002)

What was the Prime Minister’s view on his party’s rejection of Palestinian statehood?

“Any decision taken today on the final agreement is dangerous to the state of Israel and will only intensify the pressures on us.”

(Ariel Sharon, May 2002)

And the Palestinian reaction?

“This just shows that the war being waged by Israel against the Palestinians is not a war against what they call terror, it’s really their war to maintain the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”

(Saeb Erekat, Palestinian spokesman, May, 2002)

What is the official U.S. stance on Mr. Sharon?

“Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.'”

(Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary, April 2002)

Is that view shared in the Middle East?

“I don’t think even Ariel Sharon believes that.”

(Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisal, May 2002)

Does Ariel Sharon hurt his own cause?

“If there was no Sharon, anti-Semitism would have to invent him.”

(Heribert Prantl, German journalist and book author, April 2002)

Has age made him more cautious?

“Back when he was a general, Ariel Sharon was often criticized as a bold but unreliable leader — a man who took big leaps without knowing where he would land.”

(David Ignatius, Editor, International Herald Tribune, March 2002)

How much is the United States involved in Mr. Sharon’s decision making process?

“He didn’t tell us what he was going to do — and the White House didn’t ask.”

(U.S. senior administration official, December 2001)

Did that hurt U.S.-Israeli relations?

“From time to time, we’ll have these little cloudbursts. But that doesn’t affect the strength of our relationship.”

(Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, October 2001)

Faced with political rejections and strife, is Mr. Sharon going to step aside?

“I will continue to lead the state of Israel and the people of Israel according to the same ideas that led me always: security for the state of Israel and its citizens and our desire for real peace.”

(Ariel Sharon, May 2002)