Sharon wins and Peres wants in
February 6, 2001
ISRAEL'S NEW PM
Nicknames: "The BullDozer", "The Butcher", "Mr. Apartheid"
He may be a brutish thug, he may fit the definition of war criminal, he
may be a Jewish racist -- but now he is also the Prime Minister-elect of Israel,
overwhelmingly swept into power in a way few imagined possible just a year
ago. And whatever else he is, he may also be the single Israeli who has had
more ongoing influence on the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship
than any other in the past few decades.
What Sharon did militarily in 1973 and 1982 changed the course of history.
What he did in subsequent years championing the building of Israeli settlements
and the "autonomy" concept for Palestinians then lead to the apartheid-like
situation and the Oslo "Peace Process" approach. What he has done in Jerusalem,
establishing his own apartment flying the Israeli flag from the building top,
right in the heart of the Muslim section of the old city -- and recently "visiting"
the "Temple Mount" escorted by hundreds of police and army -- makes it clear
to all what Israel really has in mind for this crucial historical city that
should be and eventually must be shared rather than conquered.
Meanwhile Shimon Peres is living up to his reputation of being duplicitous
and slippery. Even before the votes were counted Peres was manuevering even
in public to be Sharon's Foreign Minister in a "national unity" government;
at the same time attempting an end run around Barak who himself is known to
have been in touch with Sharon about becoming his Defense Minister.
This video clip from ABC "Nightline" last evening helps explain what Sharon
is all about:
And this article and Sharon bio information helps put things in perspective,
both past and present:
PERES SAYS LABOR PARTY SHOULD CONSIDER JOINING SHARON IF HE WINS
By Dan Perry
JERUSALEM (AP - 5 February) Sounding resigned to electoral failure, Israeli
elder statesman Shimon Peres said Monday that his Labor Party should consider
joining forces with Ariel Sharon if the hawkish leader unseats Prime Minister
Ehud Barak and proves open to compromise with the Palestinians.
"If there will be a chance for the continuation of the peace process, then
I don't see any reason why not to have a national unity government," the former
premier and Nobel laureate said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Peres added, however, that Sharon's previous positions and his reported
plans to offer the Palestinians no land beyond what they now control - about
42 percent of the West Bank and most of the Gaza Strip - formed no basis for
progress toward peace.
"I'm not sure he's prepared to offer the necessary compromises ... to reach
peace," Peres said of Sharon, the Likud party leader who held a commanding
lead over Labor's Barak in the polls ahead of Tuesday's election for prime
minister. Peres predicted that if Sharon wins and then forms a narrow coalition
that is based on right-wing and religious parties and does not include the
peace camp, his government will be unstable.
"If there won't be a national unity government, I very much doubt that
Sharon can survive any length of time," he said.
Barak has been plagued by a fractious parliament divided among small factions
and split almost evenly between hawks and doves.
Peres, a leading architect of the 1993 Oslo accords that began the peace
process in earnest, criticized the Palestinian rejection of offers set out
"I think it was a mistake on the part of the Palestinians, who were given
a very generous offer," he said.
Barak offered the Palestinians an independent state in some 95 percent
of the West Bank and Gaza, including a share of Jerusalem and the dismantling
of many Jewish settlements. But the sides could not agree on how to share Jerusalem,
and the Palestinians insisted on the right of millions of refugees to return
Ariel Sharon, whose original name is Sheinerman, was born in Kfar Malal on
moshav (agrarian community) in 1928.
Very active in the Haganah (Jewish self-defence organization) in his early
youth, he was a platoon commander during the first Arab-Israeli war. In
1952-53, he attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in History and
Oriental studies. In 1953, he founded and led Unit 101, an Úlite unit
dedicated to leading retaliatory strikes against the Palestinian fedayeen
attacking Israel from Gaza and the West Bank.
During the 1956 war, he served as commander of a parachute brigade. His
breach of discipline during this war angered the army command, and his
advancement in the army ranks was suspended for years. In 1957-58, he
studied at Camberley Staff College in the United Kingdom. During the years
1958-62, he i.a. served as commander of an infantry brigade and studied law
at Tel-Aviv University. In 1962, he became Commander of the IDF armoured
brigades. He was then appointed Head of Northern Command Staff in 1964 and
Head of Southern Command Staff in 1969. Considering his chances slim of
being appointed Chief of Staff, Sharon resigned from the army in June 1972
but was recalled to military service in the 1973 war.
In December 1973, he was elected to the Knesset on the Likud lists although
he had no strong party affiliations. In 1974, he resigned his seat and left
Likud to become, from 1975 to 1977, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's special
In 1976, he formed a new party, Shlomzion, which gained two seats in the
1977 elections. This party disappeared shortly afterwards when Sharon joined
Likud again and entered Menahem Begin's government as Minister of
Agriculture and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for Settlements until
1981. Although he has never been religious, he supported the Gush Emunim
movement and was thus viewed as the patron of the messianic settlers
movement. He used his position to encourage the establishment of a dense
network of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and contested the
possibility of return of these territories under Arab sovereignty.
Minister of Defence in the second Begin government in 1981, he masterminded
Israel's invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. Under the findings of an official
Commission of Inquiry (the Kahan Commission), he was held responsible for
the massacres perpetrated in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila in
September 1982. He resigned from his post in 1983 but remained Minister
without portofolio until 1984.
In the national unity government of 1984, Shimon Peres appointed him
Minister of Trade and Industry. He served in this capacity until May 1990.
He then became Minister of Construction and Housing until Likud's electoral
defeat of 1992. In the Knesset, he was member of the Foreign Affairs and
Defence committee from 1990 to 1992 and Chairman of the committee overseeing
Jewish immigration from USSR.
In 1996, he was appointed Minister of National Infrastructure in Benjamin
Netanyahu's government - a post especially created for him - and on October
9th 1998, Minister for Foreign Affairs. His appointment placated
right-wingers crucial to Netanyahu's coalition (see Israel, Elections and
Parliament). Sharon - known to be one of the more hawkish in his party - has
always proposed radical schemes for "solving the Palestinian problem" like
the annexation of most of the West Bank.
Sharon is seen, like Rabin and Ehud Barak, as a military hero. Over all his
career, he has nurtured a large right-wing populist support base. He is
considered as a man who has no limits and uses power ruthlessly. He occupies
a property in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter and is Israel's wealthiest cattle
Following the resignation of Bibi Netanyahu as leader of the Likud after his
failure in the elections of 17 May 1999, Ariel Sharon was installed as its
interim chairman. He was elected as chairmain on 2 September 1999 for a term
of two years.
ARIEL SHARON: A MAN WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE
By Steven Katsineris
Ariel Sharon was born in Palestine in 1928, grandson of a Russian migrant
family and the son of farmers. When he was 13, his father gave him a knife.
Sharon remembers, "The knife was symbolic, to protect ourselves from our
enemies. It was a lesson I have never forgotten."
His first military experience began when he fought in the underground
Haganah, the largest of the Zionist groups that fought to seize Palestine in
1948, creating the state of Israel and dispossessing the native
At the age of 22, he led commando units that specialised in behind-the-lines
raids and forcing Palestinians to flee their homes.
By the 1950s, he had become a major and formed an elite "anti-terrorist"
group called Unit 101. Operating without uniforms, the group, nicknamed "the
avengers", met Palestinian resistance attacks with institutional terror. The
group carried out outrage after outrage, in terror raids across the Israeli
borders, into refugee camps and villages.
In one notorious attack on Jordan in 1953, Unit 101, under Sharon's command,
slaughtered 69 civilians, over half of them women and children, when they
blew up their homes in Qibia village.
Two years later he was reprimanded for giving logistical support to four
young Israelis who took random blood revenge on Bedouins for Arab attacks on
Israeli settlements. By this time Sharon was a lieutenant colonel in the
The independence of Unit 101, its murderous methods and the free hand given
to it by the political establishment led to strong resentment among other
sections of the military leadership.
In the 1956 Suez war, Sharon disobeyed orders and sent his paratroopers into
the Mitla Pass in the Sinai desert. In doing so, he deceived his superiors,
sacrificed his men for no apparent military purpose and gained the
displeasure of the Israeli chief of staff, Moshe Dayan. Four of his junior
officers accused him of sending men to their deaths for his own glory.
Sharon's military career went into eclipse. But in 1964, the then chief of
staff, Yitzhak Rabin, resurrected him. Sharon served Israel well again in
the 1967 war and afterward was given the job of pacifying the Palestinian
resistance in the occupied Gaza Strip. With a brutal policy of repression,
of blowing up houses, bulldozing large tracts of refugee camps, imposing
severe collective punishments and imprisoning hundreds of young Palestinians
suspected of being fighters, he managed to decrease resistance activity
In the 1973 war, as a reserve general, he was recalled to command a
division. He led a strike across the Suez Canal, behind Egyptian lines, and
this made him a national hero.
Like so many Israeli military men, he then went into politics and was
elected a member of the Likud bloc in the Israeli parliament. In the first
Begin Likud government, he was minister of agriculture and settlements. In
politics he applied the same fanaticism and many of the same techniques he
used to control the Gaza Strip. Sharon became the champion and architect of
Israeli settlement in the West Bank, causing a settlement boom.
Sharon's settlement campaign was one of the keys to Likud's re-election in
1981, as he was credited with making swift and permanent progress in
establishing a perpetual Israeli presence on the West Bank. After the
election, Begin appointed Sharon defence minister.
It was said in Israel that Sharon was "a war looking for a place to happen".
The war in Lebanon was planned and executed by Sharon.
In early 1982, he made a visit to the Phalange Party (Lebanese militia
organisation) to coordinate long-held plans for the coming conflict. Israel
was to support and supply the Phalangists, an authentic fascist party,
formed in 1936 after the founder had returned from a visit to Hitler's
Sharon believed that the demoralisation of the Palestinians would be
complete if he inflicted a crushing military defeat on the PLO in Lebanon.
As for Lebanon, Israeli's aim was to establish a Phalangist government which
would then make a treaty with Israel. Phalange Party leader Bashir Gemayel
said that his party wanted every Palestinian civilian out of Lebanon, and
Israel wanted them scattered among the other Arab countries.
In order to rationalise the invasion and the bombing of civilians, Begin and
Sharon went to great lengths to dehumanise the Palestinians. Begin declared
emotively, "If Hitler was sitting in a house with 20 other people, would it
be correct to blow up the house?". In a speech tot the Knesset, Begin
described Palestinians as "beasts walking on two legs". Sharon described
Palestinians as "bugs" while their refugee camps were"tourist camps".
On June 5, 1982, tens of thousands of Israeli troops poured across the
border and fought their way up the Lebanese coast. Heavy Israeli sea, air
and land bombardment had a devastating impact, laying waste to a substantial
portion of southern Lebanon.
The cities of Sidon and Tyre were a scene of desolation, with much of the
cities levelled by Israeli tank and artillery shells. Palestinian refugee
camps around Tyre and Sidon bore the brunt of the colossal destruction.
Ain Hilweh (Sweet Spring), the largest Palestinian refugee camp in southern
Lebanon with 25,000 residents, was razed. Nearly half a million people were
made homeless by the invasion.
One week later, Israeli forces laid siege to Beirut, shelling, bombing and
trying to break stiff Palestinian and Lebanese resistance. By the end of
July, the Lebanese government (as well as church and aid groups) stated that
at least 14,000 people had been killed and twice that number seriously
wounded. Over 90% of those killed were unarmed civilians.
After three months of war, an agreement was reached under the sponsorship of
US envoy Philip Habib. The PLO pledged to withdraw its fighters from Beirut,
after receiving US and Lebanese government promises that multinational
forces would secure the safety of the Palestinian and Lebanese civilian
population. And Israel would not enter Beirut.
The last contingent of defenders left the city on September 1, 1982. Two
days later, the Israeli army occupied a new position at the southern
entrance of the city and thus dominated the Palestinian refugee camp of
Shatila. The USA did nothing. On September 7, the Israeli army advanced
again, and again the USA did not react. On September 15, the Israeli army
entered Beirut, just after the departure of the US marines, who had stayed
only 16 days.
Ariel Sharon declared that Israel had entered Beirut in order to dislodge
2000 Palestinian fighters who had remained in the city. The task of purging
the camps Sharon had given to the Phalange.
The same day that Israel occupied Beirut, the chief of staff of the Israeli
army, Raphael Eytan, quoted in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, stated that only
handful of fedayeen fighters remained with their families, as well as a
small staff of the PLO bureau. General Drori telephoned Ariel Sharon and
told him, "Our friends are going to the camps. We have coordinated their
entry." Sharon replied, "Congratulations, our friends' operation has been
So the massacre of defenceless Palestinian and Lebanese civilians began.
Whole families were murdered, many raped and tortured before being killed.
Because many bodies were heaped into lorries and taken away, or buried in
mass graves, the exact toll will never be known. It was estimated that at
least 2000 people were killed.
After an international outcry, Israel established an inquiry headed by
Supreme Court Chief Justice Kahan. Despite its shortcomings, the
commission's report was a damning indictment of Sharon and a number of his
colleagues. The commission said that Sharon had received intelligence
warnings that the Phalangists might go on the rampage if allowed into the
camps. "In our view, even without such a warning, it is impossible to
justify the minister of defence's [Sharon's] disregard of the danger of the
"... responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defence, for having
disregarded the danger of acts of revenge and bloodshed by the Phalangists
against the population of the refugee camps and having failed to take this
danger into account when deciding to have the Phalangists enter the camps.
"In addition responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defence for
not ordering appropriate measures for the prevention of the massacre."
The commission's conclusions constituted the minimum that could be deduced
from the evidence. The facts warranted a finding of more than just indirect
The Phalangists militia was "ordered" into the camps by Israeli chief of
staff, Lieutenant General Raphael Eytan.
Phalangist commanders met with General Amir Drori, commander of Israeli
troops in Lebanon, and General Amas Yaron, commander for West Beirut, to
"coordinate the militia's entry into the camps and arrange communications".
The Phalange were given logistical support by the Israeli army during the
The Phalange took orders, salaries and training directly from Israel.
Sharon and the Israelis knew that the Phalange leaders planned to expel most
of the Palestinians from Lebanon by committing some atrocity.
The Phalangists were at all times under Israeli army orders. "Only one
element of Israeli Defence Forces will command all forces in the area",
revealed the Kahan report. The Israeli head of intelligence quoted
commented, "This means that all forces in the area, including the
Phalangists, will be under IDF command and will act according to its
instructions". [Green Left Weekly]