As Ariel Sharon’s body lies in state, our correspondent in Jerusalem Luis Carballo described the atmosphere in Israel and the legacy the former prime minister is likely to leave.
Oscar Valero Rodriguez, euronews:
“Luis, the initial reaction in Israel towards the figure of Ariel Sharon is unanimously positive. What is the atmosphere ahead of the funeral?”
Luis Carballo, euronews correspondent:
“We can feel tighter security: all the roads around the Knesset are blocked; there is a heavier police presence; more traffic jams than usual; we are seeing more people on the streets heading to the parliament to pay tribute to Ariel Sharon.
“But, I would say, there’s not the same overwhelmingly ‘emotional’ feeling as we saw following the death of Yitzhak Rabin two years after the Oslo agreement.
“In Sharon’s case, the conditions are different. He was in a coma for eight years and now people have started to talk about him again. He returned to the media spotlight on January 1, when his health worsened.
“And his profile is also different. Sharon was not a ‘man of consensus’. He was controversial, with many ups and downs during his military and political career. But since the decline of his health and his subsequent death, many of his former critics have fallen silent.”
Oscar Valero Rodriguez:
“Is anybody going to pick up Ariel Sharon’s political legacy? Does any other politician or party share his vision of Israel and the Middle East?”
“We talked with Ranaan Gissin, who was his spokesperson and advisor for more than 15 years. He told us that in his opinion – and he knew Sharon very well – there’s nobody with the same courage as Sharon; no one who will dare to do what he did.
“We have to remember his historic speech in 1998, when he urged settlers in the West Bank to run and grab as many hilltops as they could to enlarge settlements, because ‘everything we take now will stay ours’.
“It is therefore paradoxical that in 2005, four years after he became prime minister, the same man ordered the withdrawal of settlers from the 21 settlements in Gaza. People considered this a betrayal of the very settlement movement that he had boosted some years before. And inside his party it was seen as treason, too.”
Oscar Valero Rodriguez:
“So, is Sharon likely to be awarded a place in ‘the pantheon’ of Israeli politicians?”
“Only time will tell… But there’s one thing that is clear here in Israel, the concept of security is omnipresent. All governments wanting to retain their popularity have to guarantee security and Sharon symbolised
“Other issues could also arise. Concessions can be made in terms of settlements, at a higher or lower level, but security must always be seen to be guaranteed and Sharon embodied this concept.”