Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is not a man of peace although his decision to withdraw troops from the Gaza Strip will have a lasting impact on the region.
Fischer has been looking back at his former negotiation partner
Fischer, who was a trusted and active mediator in the Middle East before leaving office in November, wrote in the German weekly Die Zeit Thursday that he had always had an ambivalent take on the Israeli leader.
"He was not a man of peace, neither as a politician nor as a soldier," Fischer said of Sharon, whose political future has been thrown into doubt since he suffered a major stroke last week.
Fischer and Sharon during a 2003 meeting in Jerusalem
Fischer noted that Sharon was "the political foster father of Israeli territorial expansion and with it the settlement movement" and was deeply skeptical about the Palestinians' will for peace.
"He never seriously believed in the possibility of peace with the Palestinians, and certainly never with Yasser Arafat," he said, referring to the late Palestinian leader. "He did not see a partner in Arafat or the Palestinian leadership and he did not want to negotiate.
"We often talked about that point and the prime minister always expressed his conviction that first of all, the Arab side would never truly accept Israel in the foreseeable future and secondly, the ideas about a final status were too far apart on the two sides and thus could not be bridged in negotiations."
Fischer added that Sharon "was and is totally inflexible" on the status of Jerusalem.
But he said Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip in September had been a monumental step that would secure Sharon's place in history.
"That was an unprecedented, nearly revolutionary event," he wrote. "That remains Ariel Sharon's lasting achievement."
Fischer de n ies professorship rumors
He might end up teaching at Princeton
Fischer meanwhile also denied a report that he has accepted a teaching post at Harvard and plans to live in the United States.
"I cannot confirm what you have read ... I have no intention to expatriate myself," Fischer told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of his Greens party at Wörlitz, southwest of Berlin.
Fischer has however told Thursday's edition of the Ha n delsblatt daily that he has been offered a teaching post at Princeton University in New Jersey.
"It is true that I have received an offer from Princeton University but I have not yet taken a decision," he said, adding that he had no plans to resign his seat as a member of parliament for the Greens.