ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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West Asia : To Square One

To Square One Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon's dream finally became a reality when early this month he won an impressive mandate to become Israel's new prime minister, defeating incumbent Ehud Barak. Barak was flayed for his inability to hold true to his promise to bring peace and end the renewed 'intifada' by the Palestinians, despite his increasing – to some Israelis, alarming – concessions to the Palestinians. Yet three weeks and more into office, Sharon still finds the cobbling together of his government of national unity, comprising Labour and Likud, an elusive task. Factions within both Likud and Labour are agreed that a joint government would only seek an interim accord with the Palestinians, not a final peace deal. That leaves Sharon with few options.

Ground realities in the region indicate a situation of growing desperation. The Gaza Strip remains one of the most densely populated places on earth – more than a million Palestinians are crammed into about three-quarters of this narrow strip of land at the south-western corner of Israel. The remaining 25 per cent is marked out for the 6,000 or so Jews who settled there after Israel seized the area in 1967. Antagonism between the settlers and the Arabs has been the dominant feature of life in Gaza since then. The region's economic plight has worsened in the seven years of the Oslo peace process since 1993.

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