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Palestinians Fear the Worst After
Sharon’s Re-Election

Palestine Media Center- (PMC)

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) said the Palestinian people feared the worst after Ariel Sharon’s Likud party easily won Israel’s general elections Tuesday, with right-wing parties scoring a clear majority.

During Tuesday’s vote, Palestinians were confined to their homes by an Israeli military curfew.

The PNA chief negotiator and cabinet minister Saeb Erekat told reporters Wednesday, “You have Sharon in a new government, a war against Iraq imminent, the disappearance of the peace process, all these factors.”

“But nevertheless, I would like to say that we respect the democratic choice of the Israelis and we call on whoever is in the new government to resume negotiations,” he added.

PNA minister of culture and information, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said that the “Israelis have committed an historical mistake, which both Palestinian and Israeli peoples will regret and pay dearly for.”

President Yasser Arafat’s media advisor Nabil Abu Rudeina said, “the results did not surprise us, this is the choice of the Israeli people.”

“The important thing, however, is whether this government will last, if the occupation will last on our land or if (the government) will agree to come back to negotiations,” he said, urging the international community to pressure Sharon to opt for peace talks with the Palestinians.

In Gaza City, Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin said Sharon’s victory meant Israelis are not ready to make peace.

“The Israeli people are looking for a violent leader who is able to kill and destroy the Palestinian people, but they will lose,” Yassin said.

Futoon Qadri, 27, a resident of the West Bank’s largest city of Nablus, said she didn’t think her life could get much worse, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Nablus has been under curfew for extended periods since Israeli troops reoccupied the city in June. There hasn’t been a break in the curfew for the past 10 days.

“There's nothing that would give me hope for the future, and that's how life is going to continue,” said Qadri.

Before the polls closed, Palestinian homemaker Yasmin Ahmed read the Israeli dailies Haaretz, Jerusalem Post and Yediot Ahronot online at the Future Internet Cafe in Ramallah.

“The Israeli election plays a big role in my life,” she said, explaining that her husband is imprisoned by Israel. “Therefore, I hope a new Israeli leader will help will find a solution (to the conflict) that will end the suffering of my husband.”

But most at the cafe were resigned to Sharon staying in power. “Sharon will be the leader of Israel, and he is not a man who is seeking peace at all,” said Osama Shamashneh, a 23-year-old accountant.

Bush: ‘We Will Continue to Seek Peace’

Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush vowed Tuesday to press on with efforts to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We will continue to seek peace between a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine,” he said in his annual State of the Union address before a joint session of the US Congress.

Last June, Bush outlined his strategy for securing peace in the Middle East, calling for the creation of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

At the weekend US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that any Israeli government put together from disparate parties over the coming days must move toward creating a genuine Palestinian state.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, he told the Israeli leadership: “You have to do more to deal with the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinian people, and you have to understand that a Palestinian state, when it’s created, must be a real state, not a phoney state that’s diced into a thousand different pieces.”

Russia Calls For Immediate Adoption of ‘Roadmap’

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov demanded Tuesday an urgent meeting of the so-called Middle East quartet in order to approve the “roadmap”.

The quartet comprises representatives of the United States, the European Union, United Nations and Russia.

“Russia thinks that it is very important that the international quartet, without delay, meets to present a road map for a gradual solution to the Palestinian-Israeli violence,” said Ivanov.

“The international community must not lower its guard concerning the Middle East problem,” Ivanov said following talks with the visiting Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Abdel Wahid Belkeziz.

However Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has rejected any discussion of the “roadmap,” which would see the creation of an independent Palestinian state within three years.

Arab Reaction

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in remarks published Tuesday that he wanted to step up contacts with Ariel Sharon.

“We have to deal with the Israeli prime minister in a new way” in order to relaunch the Mideast peace process, Mubarak told Al-Ittihad newspaper.

“Sharon will be re-elected and we must speak to him because it would be inopportune to stay quiet.”

“We have some contacts but we have to intensify them to explain better to him (Sharon) the situation and its seriousness,” he added.

“His attitude could develop, the elections could open up a new chance to relaunch the peace process and put an end to the violence,” Mubarak said of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation.

However, Arab League chief Amr Mussa said Tuesday he did not expect any shift in Israeli government policy if, as expected, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wins its general election.

“Mr Sharon tomorrow will be no different to Mr Sharon yesterday,” Mussa told reporters in Berlin after talks with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

He said Sharon’s government already “did not do much to prevent the further occupation of Palestinian territory.”

Having a different kind of government -- unity, minority or majority -- did not automatically mean a new opening toward peace, he added.

“We need a government that is committed to a balanced peace, a fair peace. Would this be the case” if Sharon were in it? Said Mussa. “I don't think so.”