Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority after a landslide victory in January elections.
But post-election attacks by Palestinian militants immediately threatened to derail hopes for renewed peace talks.
However, Mr Abbas deployed Palestinian police in northern Gaza and by February had persuaded Hamas and Islamic Jihad to begin a temporary, unofficial cessation of violence.
Mr Abbas and Mr Sharon went on to announce a mutual ceasefire at a summit in Egypt, although the militant groups stopped short of making their fragile – and far from watertight - truce official.
Preparations for – and controversy over – Ariel Sharon's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip continued, with the Israeli Prime Minister securing cabinet backing and fending off calls for a referendum from opponents.
Despite widespread protests by settlers, the withdrawal went ahead in late August and early September, with emotional scenes as Israeli troops removed some settlers by force.