The day that Ariel Sharon slipped into a coma British foreign minister Jack Straw announced to the Lebanese press in Beirut that he was “praying for a miracle” to save Sharon’s life.
That Straw should make this statement in Beirut, which Sharon placed under bloody siege for 70 days in 1982, sums up the attempt by the world’s leaders to cast Sharon as a man who made the journey from “tough soldier to man of peace”.
Yet every action taken by Sharon has been to destroy any chance of a lasting peace in the Middle East. He opposed Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 and campaigned against the Oslo peace agreement that granted Palestinians limited rule over their own areas.
It was Ariel Sharon who in September 2000 set foot on one of the most revered Muslim holy sites, the Haram al-Sharif mosque, to stake Israel’s claim on East Jerusalem. This sparked the second Palestinian intifada (uprising).
Sharon, a champion of the Israeli settler movement, wanted to seize East Jerusalem from its Palestinian inhabitants. He won the Israeli general election in 2001 promising to smash the intifada.
He reinvaded Palestinian controlled areas in the West Bank, laid siege to Ramallah and destroyed the town of Jenin.
He built the apartheid wall around Palestinian areas. Last year he withdrew Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. The move was praised in the West as a brave stand that confirmed Sharon as a warrior for peace.
But the Gaza Strip had little economic or strategic importance for Israel. The withdrawal was aimed at securing the more important settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements and the land grabs in these areas have continued. The repression and killings of Palestinians have continued.
As Sharon enters the land of the shadows his bloody legacy remains stamped on the region. Far from being a man of peace, Sharon was at the end as he was in the beginning — a ruthless killer who made others people’s misery his life’s work.