The election of Ariel Sharon as prime minister of Israel has left everyone involved in Middle Eastern politics wondering what the future will bring - many fear that his very election will precipitate a war. It is no wonder that people are not sure what to expect; Sharon himself is a man who projects conflicting images.
Sharon is portrayed in the press as an "arch hawk" with a bloody record and a hatred for Arabs. He has always advocated a strong military defense as the key to Israel's security. This, in addition to his promise to maintain Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, is probably why he was elected by such a wide margin (62 to 37 percent of the vote). Many Israelis were troubled by Ehud Barak's proposals to give up parts of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and his inability to stand firm on his ultimatums to Palestinian terrorist groups. As prime minister, Barak offered more concessions to the Palestinians than anyone dared before. He gambled that the Palestinians would see how much he was offering and gratefully accept his proposals; however, Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat would not settle for anything less than the return of all of the territories taken by the Israelis in the 1967 War, including the entire West Bank and Jerusalem.
According to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Sharon now believes that Israel must step back from the negotiations and move to what he calls "a non-belligerency accord without specific deadlines but with mutually agreed expectations." This would include joint efforts to combat terrorism, development of joint projects such as large-scale seawater desalinization, an end to media incitement, and creation of a whole host of programs that "teach peace to both sides." Sharon also wants to negotiate the building of a no-exit throughway between the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza. This dramatically reduces the amount of territory to be ceded to the Palestinians (10-12% of the West Bank, reduced from 97%) than offered under Barak's leadership. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee" (Psalm 122:6).
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