Bitter words and bloody clashes are again threatening the temporary Middle East peace
process. Since Israeli opposition leader, Ariel Sharon’s disputed September 28 visit to the
Temple Mount, a place cherished by Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem, more than 465 people have
been killed in violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis. Sharon denied Palestinian
charges that his visit was a deliberate provocation, but Palestinians erupted into violence in east
Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah after his departure. More than 30 people were
injured that day, most Israeli soldiers, who used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to
restrain the crowd. The following day, Palestinians again clashed with Israeli soldiers as they left
Friday prayers in east Jerusalem, and at least four Palestinians were killed and hundreds of
Israelis and Palestinians injured. (Eidelberg, 1)
Both sides blame the other for the violence, and each holds the other responsible for
ending it. Internal Israeli politics are further complicating the peace process. Sharon is now
the Israeli prime minister-elect after winning a landslide victory over inaugurated Prime Minister
Ehud Barak. Barak resigned in December and called the election, saying he wanted a “renewed
mandate” to pursue peace with the Palestinians. Barak’s union (which included Arab
Israelis, religious Jews, and Russian immigrants) demolished last year after the disposal of
mutual peace talks at Camp David and the start of the fresh wave of violence in September.
As the violence continued into 2001, Barak’s support disintegrated. A last-ditch
effort to secure a deal with the Palestinians fell short just days before the election, leading to
Sharon’s 25 percentage-point victory. But Sharon’s win also came with the lowest Israeli voter
turnout in recent history. (Sixty-two percent in a nation that regularly brings out 80 percent of its