Sharon's 'peacemaker' image tainted by actions

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2003

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent admission, that it is impossible to keep the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under occupation forever, has done little, if anything, to change the way he is perceived in the Arab world. His gory track record belies any bid on his part to cast himself as a peacemaker.

Sharon unwittingly fed doubts about his alleged change of heart when he pledged during a historic summit in Jordan last week to remove ''unauthorized'' Jewish outposts in the West Bank. His pledge was a glaring attempt to circumvent a freeze stipulated in the U.S.-backed ''roadmap'' peace plan on Jewish settlements.

The world rightly believes that Jewish settlements pose a major obstacle to peacemaking in the Middle East. Sharon is expected to manipulate the far right's anger over obligations set in the ''roadmap'' to wriggle out of American pressure to carry out his side of the deal.

Likewise, Sharon may well employ another ruse: playing for time. While projecting himself as a peacemaker, the Israeli premier assumes that in few months' time, U.S. President George W. Bush's attention will be distracted away from the turbulent politics of the Middle East to campaigning for a second presidential term.

Egyptian Gazette, Cairo,

June 10

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