Rashidi Khalidi, author of Under Siege: PLO Decisionmaking During the 1982 War (now available in a revised edition with a new introduction), has recently been interviewed and asked to comment on Ariel Sharon’s legacy and his impact on the Middle East.
In a recent piece in Foreign Policy, Call Off the Sainthood of Ariel Sharon, Khalidi discusses the Israeli leader’s role in the 1982 Israeli war in Lebanon, a conflict that led to more than 50,000 casualties, including many Lebanese civilians.
The Lebanon war that Sharon, then the defense minister, did more than anyone else to launch was an unmitigated catastrophe for the Palestinians, the Lebanese, and in the view of most Israelis at the time, Israel itself. Israel’s subsequent occupation of South Lebanon until 2000, the consequent intensification of the Lebanese civil war, the slaughter of untold numbers of innocents, and the deaths of hundreds of Israeli soldiers and thousands of other combatants should all be laid in large part at Sharon’s feet.
Sharon’s profound impact on the Middle East stretched far beyond Lebanon. If the creation of a truly sovereign, independent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state is not possible today — as most sober observers believe — this is largely his achievement. From his appointment as agriculture minister in 1977 until his passing from the Israeli political scene after his stroke in 2006, he probably did more than any other Israeli leader to make Israel’s colonization of the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem an astonishing success.