Arabs nervous about Sharon
[AL-AWDA] Arabs nervous about Sharon
Arabs uneasy about resultsWon't start over, Palestinian says
By IBRAHIM HAZBOUNAssociated Press
RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Palestinians said Tuesday they are ready to conduct peace talks with Ariel Sharon but warned that his hard-line program was a recipe for war.
"We respect the Israeli people's choice, and we hope the peace process will continue," Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was quoted as saying by his adviser, Nabil Aburdeneh.
Elsewhere in the Arab world, news of Sharon's victory over Ehud Barak in the Israeli prime minister's race was met with dread.
Yehiia Qabbani, 18, a Palestinian living in the al-Hussein refugee camp near Amman, Jordan, said Sharon "is a criminal and he killed all my family's hope to return to our home."
In Kuwait, Mohamed al-Othman, a 40-year-old civil engineer, watched the election results on TV.
"Couldn't they have chosen someone else, someone with clean hands?" he said.
The Palestinians say negotiations must resume where they left off last month - when Barak offered them a state in virtually all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and parts of contested Jerusalem.
Sharon has said he does not want to give the Palestinians more land - beyond the two-thirds of Gaza and 42 percent of the West Bank they now control - and is not ready to relinquish any part of Jerusalem.
"If Sharon wants to talk about the peace process, he has to understand that we have to begin where we left off; we cannot go back to point zero," said Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator.
"If, on the other hand, Mr. Sharon starts to implement the program he announced during the election campaign, that is to keep the occupation of Jerusalem, the (West Bank's) Jordan Valley, I think that he will be producing a recipe for war," Erekat said.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of Palestinians burned pictures of Barak and Sharon in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
The Palestinians said their uprising against Israel would continue, regardless of who won the election.
In scattered clashes in the West Bank, three Palestinians were wounded by live rounds and 43 were hurt by rubber-coated steel pellets fired by Israeli troops. Gunbattles erupted in two locations.
Palestinians had called for a "day of rage," but the clashes were relatively muted compared with violence of the past four months.
The mood across the West Bank and Gaza Strip was one of indifference, with many Palestinians saying both men have a history of oppressing them and they don't believe their situation can get worse under Sharon. Palestinians do not have the right to vote, unlike Israel's Arab citizens.
Although Barak's offer to the Palestinians at the negotiating table was the most generous ever made by an Israeli leader, many Palestinians judged him largely on his actions during the past 17 weeks of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
More than 300 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops, and throughout the fighting, Barak enforced tight travel restrictions on Palestinians, in many cases barring them from leaving their communities for weeks at a time.
For many Palestinians, that made them revile Barak as much as they have Sharon - a man who for years has been seen here as one of the Palestinians' greatest enemies.
In the Israeli-controlled downtown sector of the West Bank town of Hebron, some 30,000 Palestinian residents have been confined to their homes for more than three months, as troops guarded some 450 Jewish settlers living in the area.
Hebron has been a major friction point, with Palestinians repeatedly shooting at Israeli positions. A fresh gunbattle erupted Tuesday.
Assife Sharabati, 31, who lives next door to the Jewish settler compound of Avraham Avinu, said she was deeply disappointed in Barak. "We never had a curfew of 100 days in a row before. We only had it under Barak, the 'peacemaker,'" she said.
Sharabati's balcony was covered with wire mesh to protect her home against stones and empty bottles thrown from time to time by her settler neighbors. She said she feared that in the event of a Sharon victory, the settlers would become more brazen in their attacks. "If Sharon is winning, welcome to hell."
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