Miguel Ángel Moratinos has an in-depth knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He was the European Union Special Envoy for the Middle East for seven years, from 1996 to 2003. He has experienced first-hand the ups and downs of the peace process and negotiated, face-to-face, with its main players.
euronews: Mr. Moratinos, thank you for joining us on euronews.
It is difficult evaluating a controversial figure like Ariel Sharon. To what extent did the decisions made by Sharon himself – both on the battlefield and in the political arena – shape today’s Israel?
Miguel Angel Moratinos: “He was a controversial figure, as you say, and history will judge him, along with his enormous grey zones, like Sabra and Shatila.
No one will ever forget the massacres in those Palestinian refugee camps in September 1982. Also, he did not always agree with the negotiations that started after the Oslo Agreement. He was always trying to enlarge the settlements (the colonies), provoking people with his controversial visit to the Temple Mount, unleashing the second Intifada.”
“But then, when he became prime minister, he softened and focused towards the peace agreements.”
euronews: Does his death somehow mark the end of an era? The end of a generation of Israeli leaders forged in war?”
MAM: “I hope so. Until now, more or less all the prime ministers of Israel had to have moved up the army ranks. There was a feeling that security was the most important thing, and that’s still largely the case in Israeli politics. But it’s true that Sharon’s death may bring the start of a new era.”
euronews: “How was Sharon at the negotiation table?”
MAM: “Actually, he had a kind of double personality. He was always kind when you first met him. I remember once he invited me to a farm near Gaza, and he was very relaxed and kind.
“But then, when it came to negotiating, he was a very dynamic man, who made harsh decisions, in some cases transcendental ones.”
euronews: “Sharon was considered the founder of the settlement movement in the occupied Palestinian Territories. But, as a prime minister, in an amazing turnaround, he showed that the settlements were not irreversible. Was the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 his biggest contradiction or another strategic movement?
MAM: “Many important figures in Israeli politics progress to important goverment positions, then look for solutions. That was the case with Yithzak Rabin and even Golda Meir and Ben Gurion.”
“Sharon also looked for solutions. But perhaps not in the best possible manner, because he refused to shake hands with President Arafat.”
“His refusal to negotiate, to make commitments and agreements of any kind, had an impact on his decisions, even the good ones.”
“Like the withdrawal from Gaza, for example, which was a unilateral measure. There was no agreement with the PNA (Palestinian National Authority). There was always a a gap and we’ll never know whether Sharon planned to sign a definitive agreement, or wanted a Palestinian state, side by side with Israel, leaving in peace.”