Middle East


The World Reacts to Ariel Sharon

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. (Photo: Tal Cohen / AFP-Getty Images)

EDINBURGH — The Scotsman (Independent, moderate), Scotland, Jan. 9: Political intrigue bubbled alongside concern about Ariel Sharon's health yesterday, as Israeli politicians planned for forthcoming elections while awaiting final word that the prime minister will not be able to return to office … If Kadima and the dovish Labor party join together to form Israel's next government "it means we will accelerate the process of starting negotiations", said Azmi Shueibi, a Palestinian M.P. He said that there was no clear answer to the question of whether Mr. Sharon had made peace between Israel and the Palestinians more or less likely. "His history with the Palestinians was black but we cannot ignore that he changed his opinion [on territory]," he said … Hani Masri, a veteran political analyst, predicted little change. "There could be political instability in Israel, but there won't be a basic change in the Israeli program because Sharon's idea of imposing an interim solution on the Palestinians has many followers," he said … Meanwhile, Israel yesterday received some support from Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, who said his government would recognize the Jewish state if the Palestinians were allowed to have their own country … "We will have relations with Israel. We will have trade with Israel," he said. "Israelis are people like we are. If I have the right to live, and have a home, and have a country, Israel has the right to live and have a country."

DOHA — Al Watan (Saudi-backed weekly), Qatar, Jan. 6: With Ariel Sharon removed from the political scene in Israel, Al Watan takes a look at his recent apparent transformation into a political moderate. The paper disputes this reading, saying Sharon never changed his criminal behavior toward Palestinians. Al Watan notes that no matter how many world leaders pray for Sharon's quick recovery and praise to the rafters his recent efforts for peace, he will still remain the butcher from Jenin, from Sabra and Shatila, and the person who has done the most to undermine the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

LONDON — The Observer (Liberal weekly), Britain, Jan. 9: Hamad Shamus remembers the morning in September 1982 when the right-wing Lebanese forces and their Israeli advisers sealed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut and began to massacre the Palestinians inside … "They put all of us against the wall by our home and shot us," said Shamus, who was 20 at the time … I was shot three times. One man lived for an hour before he gave up and died. I lay there for three days listening to them kill the others. I prayed to God for myself and for my family. I don't know how I lived" … As Israel's top military official in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and backer of the Phalangists, Ariel Sharon is here thought of as a butcher of innocents … "He is the King Kong of massacres," said Abu Khalil, 46, another survivor … The Israeli Kahan Commission found Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacre — he was dismissed as Israel's defense minister … "I want to see him recover so that we can charge him with crimes," Hamad said. "But it seems maybe God has decided to charge him instead."

TEL AVIVArutz Sheva (Right-wing, pro-settler), Israel, Jan. 9: The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Arutz-7, Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz, was a long-time personal friend of Ariel Sharon. When Sharon served as Housing Minister in the Yitzchak Shamir government of 1990-92, Ketzaleh was his top aide and advisor, helping him build communities in and around Jerusalem, the Golan, Judea, Samaria and Gaza … In light of Sharon's critical illness, Ketzaleh shared his feelings (in Hebrew) with Israel National News television: "At this point, with him very sick, since it does not look like he will return to public life — we wish him a full recovery and that he return to his farm in the best possible condition — now is the time to say about him only good things. I can say that what he built in the course of the past many years throughout the land of Israel, and what he built militarily, and his strategic and tactical views in many areas of national development, are all very unique and will certainly be remembered in his favor … "To my great sorrow, his actions of the past few years, will cloud, not insignificantly, over his image in Jewish history — but I think G-d did him a favor by preventing him, even when he recovers, from doing further damage to the Nation of Israel, and in the final balance, perhaps his positive actions will outweigh the negative.

TEL AVIV — Ha'aretz (Liberal), Israel, Jan. 9: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Monday in Paris that he was worried about the situation in the Middle East following the massive stroke suffered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon … "Everybody should be worried," Clinton told journalists after he met with French President Jacques Chirac to talk about his Clinton Global Initiative foundation … Clinton noted that Sharon had not only pulled Israel out of Gaza but had launched a new political party to pursue his peace initiatives … Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Monday the death of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would be a serious defeat for United States policy in the Middle East, state-run radio reported … "The Americans have been defeated in Palestine since the butcher of the Palestinians, who intended to destroy the Palestinian Intifada, has come to his end," the radio quoted Khamenei as saying to a group of visitors … On Thursday Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he hoped for the death of Sharon.

TOKYO — Asahi Weekly (Weekly magazine of the Asahi Shimbun) Japan, Jan. 6: Following the news that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has suffered a massive stroke, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has called off his visit to the Middle East, officials said … Koizumi's initial plan was to leave Saturday to meet with both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as make a stop in Turkey … "We can't very well have a meeting with only one side," a senior Foreign Ministry official said Thursday, explaining the reason for canceling Koizumi's planned visit to the Palestinian region … "I fully understand Israel's situation, and that a meeting with me will not be possible," Koizumi told reporters Thursday night … "Peace in the Middle East affects the whole world, and Japan should consider what it can do" … It would have been the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to Israel and the Palestinian region since former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama visited in September 1995 when Murayama met with Yasser Arafat in Gaza.

TEL AVIV — Yediot Ahronot (Centrist), Israel, Jan. 11: Ehud Olmert will not get a grace period to prove himself writes Yitzhak Blair. He is not known as a great leader, despite his competent administration. He needs to act quickly to continue the policies of Ariel Sharon and show leadership. For example, he should try to complete the security fence and he should move against Hebron settlers who are illegally occupying Palestinian houses. If he balks, he will lose credibility among Kadima party supporters …Yaron London examines the positions of evangelist Pat Robertson, who cursed Ariel Sharon for giving up land. Robertson is a reactionary and an anti-Semite, London claims. M.K. Benny Eylon should reconsider his close relationship with Robertson.

BEIRUT — Daily Star (Independent, English-language), Lebanon, Jan. 12: The writer, Michael Young believes that history will not be kind to Sharon, regardless of the plaudits offered today. His policy for Palestinians does not take into account their national aspiratons and is therefore bound to fail. Palestinians will not be satisfied with a botched state in the West Bank and will not make peace unless they get their rights.