While the rest of the world is trying to figure out what its response to the overwhelming victory of Ariel Sharon, I conducted my own unscientific survey of Palestinian reaction to the results of the Israeli elections. I chose to get the reaction of television broadcasters knowing full well that they more than anyone else have their fingers of the pulse of the Palestinian public.
While predictions varied none went to the level of deep concern and their was no alarmist tone in the expectations of Palestinians.
Bethlehem TVs owner Raed Othman is completely unafraid of Sharon. He will be a more difficult counterpart but I think he is more capable of making peace. Othman said that he prefers a difficult but decisive counterpart rather than one that is always hesitating.
Sharon is also not seen as a monster by some Hebronites. Eyad Juneidi of Future TV has some harsh words for Barak but says that one cant prejudge Sharon until we see him in action. Palestinians havent tried Sharon for more than 10 years now, he might not turn out any worse than Barak. But Juneidi insists that whoever is in power in Israel must quickly pay attention to the situation in the heart of Hebron where a huge explosion is waiting to take place. The situation here is different than all the other Palestinian cities. Settlers in the center of the city have paralyzed it and the people will not tolerate this situation much longer. Fathi Natour owner of Farah TV in Jenin feels that Israeli hypocrisy is finally over the real face of Israel is now in government. The Israeli face is that which says nothing is yours and that the mentality of power has won. But Natour believes that Sharon will ease the collective punishment and escalate the violence specifically against those carrying out acts of resistance. He thinks that although the Palestinian street is ready to meet this expected Israeli force head on it will welcome any easing of the situation on the ground.
In Gaza, Abdel Salaam Shehade of Ramataan Studios expects that Gazans are pessimistic about the future although he feels the Likud has historically been much more clear than Labor. Ayman El Bardawil another Gazan who runs Al Quds Educational Television in Ramallah is also pessimistic but only on the short run. This is a s that Israelis need to go through in order to become more realistic about the impossibility of a military solution. Bardawil is worried about mistakes that Sharon might committee which will further complicate the problem. Specifically he is concerned about further settlements whose sole purpose would be to deal a permanent solution. He believes that after a few months and as a result of internal and external pressures Sharon will wise up. With the international balance of forces it is impossible that a situation similar to that of the dark ages can continue to be applied against a civilian population.
From Nablus TV, Ayman Nimer feels that things cant get any worse. On the ground nothing will change, the military will continue to think in the same closed minded way and in the political areas the situation could get worse because of the red lines that Sharon has talked about, namely no right of return, no withdrawal from settlements or Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem issue was on the top of the responses of two Palestinian journalists from Jerusalem. Nabih Aweidah who is running the press office of the Orient House says he has no expectation that there will be any progress after he heard the victory speech of Sharon in Tel Aviv. His reference to Jerusalem and that the cutting off the hand of those who forget Jerusalem, is not very helpful to the peace process. Aweidah thinks that a unified Arab and international stand is the only way to force Sharon to a more sensible position.
Khaled Abu Aker, editor of the internet site amin.org says that Sharon will concentrate his efforts to weakening the Palestinian leadership. He will ease the situation for Palestinians while working indirectly to make things much more difficult for the Palestinian leadership.