Jerusalem Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon on Friday offered to name the incumbent premier, Ehud Barak, to head the defense ministry in the incoming government in an attempt to forge an alliance government with the vanquished Labor Party.
Sharon extended the offer to Barak, whom he trounced in elections Tuesday by a 25-point margin, as the Palestinians territories erupted in some of the more ferocious fighting in weeks and Israel's top generals forecast even worse violence to come.
The job of defense minister, currently held by Barak in addition to the premiership, is generally considered the second most powerful job in Israel. But it remains to be seen whether Barak's dovish Labor Party will accept a partnership in government with the hawkish Sharon, who is refusing to resume negotiations with the Palestinians until calm prevails and then only to seek a non-aggression pact, not a sweeping peace deal as Barak wanted.
At the same time, the Palestinians are expressing anger not only at Sharon for rescinding the concessions Barak made, but also at the Bush administration for seeming to support him.
In his first major interview since his landslide victory, Sharon struck a pugnacious note that was at odds with his restrained, avuncular image during the campaign.
"Peace talks should be held when there is no terrorism and no fire," he told Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper .