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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 08:43 GMT
Israel elections: Your verdict
The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has hailed his Likud Party's election triumph as "historic" after official results gave it a convincing victory over its leftist rivals.
In a vote which produced the lowest turnout in Israeli election history, Likud captured 37 seats - almost doubling its representation in the Knesset (parliament).
The secular Shinui Party also did well, becoming the third largest grouping in parliament.
However, the main opposition Labour Party suffered its worst ever election defeat, having failed to woo voters frustrated by continued Palestinian suicide attacks.
Palestinians have already described the outcome as counter to the interests of peace, and warned their situation was likely to deteriorate further.
What do you think of the result? What are the implications for the Middle East peace process?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Ariel Sharon understands the concept of peace through power. It's the difference between the kind of peace brought by UN brokered stalemates vs. the decisive victories or defeats suffered by my own country. The unending Palestinian plight is no longer about a homeland. It about teaching civilised nations how hatred brings about self-ruin. Ariel Sharon will see to it that these relentless messages of war and hatred won't rob yet another people of their homeland. Peace through power.
Get rid of Sharon and Arafat and let new, younger blood lead Israel and the Palestinians and you will see peace.
There is time for peace and there is time for war. The elections results definitely express recognition among Israeli public that peace cannot be achieved under the current Palestinian leadership. Many of those who voted for the right will be willing for compromises when facing an honourable rival. The message is clear: We are here to stay and we are willing to pay a heavy price because there is no other real alternative.
By electing Likud Party/Sharon to power the Israelis have made a blunder and the result concludes that the Israelis do not want peace.
I agree that the Sharon will bring catastrophe to the region, more than he had already done.
I am amazed by the arrogance of the Israeli Labour Party. They caused this unnecessary election by bolting from the last unity government. They are then trounced at the polls; but instead of eating humble pie, they not only refuse to join a new coalition (even though the majority of Israelis would support this), but start talking of still removing Ariel Sharon from power. Does this party have any respect for the electorate whatsoever?
If Arafat is not a man of peace, very certainly neither is Sharon! What makes the people of Israel or of any other country think that peace can be attained by exclusion? Isn't this what started the whole debacle in 1948 with the expulsion of the Palestinians? Now countless dead later and beyond $90 billion in US grants alone, the promise by Israel to live in peace with the Palestinians is still unfulfilled
Once America stops funding the occupation and Israel gets an electoral system which doesn't lead to a multitude of extremist parties we may have some sort of hope of peace. An alliance between Meretz and Labour under Peres would be the best for Israel and peace.
It is the people themselves who need to take responsibility of their country's fate. No single leader who is human can make peace out of chaos that comes from individual acts of violence and hatred. Only when the people of Israel and Palestine uncloud their vision and unite in their efforts to end violence can they see hope for peace. People need to take responsibility and become their own leaders. Every man and woman needs to look into their own hearts and cleanse themselves of greed and hatred. Until then, violence has no end.
No matter which party comes to power in Israel, the question of peace with Palestinians can be a reality when Arafat is changed. If the different Israeli Prime Ministers who have come to power since the Oslo accord have not been able to secure peace for the area, I strongly believe a change in the Palestinian leadership will be the answer.
As a supporter of the left, it is needless to describe how I feel about the results of Tuesday's elections. It has to be said, though, that at least the extreme right didn't make it into the Knesset - which is a small comfort.
As for the future of Israel, well - not for nought there has been an increase in the number of Israelis seeking European passports. I believe that currently it is in the interest of both leaders to maintain this bloody status quo.
If the Israeli public really want peace they should allow all refugees to gain Israeli citizenship and become part of the so called democracy. Then peace will be accomplished. How could you rob people their own land and then say that you live in a state of constant fear of these people? How could you brand Palestinians' way of fighting as terrorism, while tanks demolish their houses, schools and playgrounds?
Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been living under occupation for 35 years, until that illegal occupation ends and Israel for once in its brief history cooperates with UN resolutions, there will be no peace regardless who gets elected.
I don't know why the right wing in Israel feel more secure under Sharon when during his term as prime minister, terrorist attacks have more than tripled. The situation is worse than ever on the security and economic front. Both the left wing in Israel and Arafat are to blame for this election catastrophe - the left, because they became irrelevant by sitting together with Sharon in a coalition government, and Arafat because he turned to violence.
Ariel Sharon: a strong leader, with no love affair with television cameras and soundbites. With him, it's no baloney. Just business. Business in the interest of Israel.
Marianne Andrea, Nazareth
Hopefully Sharon won't last that long - the people of Israel and Palestine don't deserve any more of Sharon and the misery he brings. Sharon has brought nothing but misery to people throughout his career, shown in horrific terms in the invasion of Lebanon. I would urge the Israeli people to ensure that Sharon should never again hold office.
Israel will have peace and security when the Palestinians have peace and security and it's the right of the Israeli electorate to choose Sharon as leader as it is the right of the Palestinians to choose Arafat. As for the future - the Israeli electorate have voted for settlements and occupation. The Palestinians are for resistance rather than capitulation.
War and violence dominates Sharon's history, and suicide bombers are the main cause of his second victory. Only through Palestinian reform, and Arab diplomatic action, suicide bombings will stop and consequently a Likud government which has no alternative to war and destruction.
The most notable aspect of this was the extremely low voter turnout. This is the real crime in this election.
This turnout is a major step back in the peace process. There will be no peace in the Middle East without communication and sharing. All hope is lost with Sharon in power.
As an Israeli ex-radical left peace activist who
only few years ago thought
he knew exactly what should
be done, I must admit that
the situation is confusing.
The Palestinians have
proven by their school
material and systematic
incitement that their
strategic goal is not
peace. It is clear that if
we stay in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip violence
will continue. It is also
clear that if we pull out,
the Palestinians will form
a terror state and
confrontation at some
stage would be inevitable.
Nevertheless, I trust
Mitzna's decision making
better than Sharon's.
Michael Zuri, Israel
The results were predictable and despicable. Sharon has never been interested in peace. It was his actions, in fact, which started the intifada. Israel will remain in violation of international law. Israel will remain in material breach of UN resolutions. Israel will remain in possession of weapons of mass destruction. The Palestinians will continue to resist occupation.
Sharon wants peace. However more than peace he wants to ensure the safety and security of all residents of Israel. The current wave of Palestinian terrorism began after Barak unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon. Arafat saw that as weakness on the part of Israel and chose violence instead of peace. Sharon is Israel's answer to Palestinian violence.
The best leader for Israel is the man or woman who will make the Palestinians see that they can have their own state if they stop the terror and negotiate. Clearly, Israelis feel that this man is Ariel Sharon. And since the Israelis are the ones who have to ride buses in Israel, who are we to tell them differently?
I believe Ariel Sharon is the best candidate. He has the experience and time in the job. It would be dangerous and unwise to switch up now. He is also an experienced military man, and that's important when his country is fighting for their survival on a daily basis. He is doing the best job possible facing an enemy whose objective is to push them into the sea.
Most people would have voted for almost anybody else if they had had a real choice. I wanted to vote for a candidate who was not able to stand because of Israel's crazy political system. Now I see no hope of things getting better.
The Israeli electorate has resoundingly rejected concessions to the intifada. The Palestinians will now have to come to grips with the choice of ending all violence, changing their leadership, and compromising their demands in order to establish a state or face an endless plight of desperation and poverty which may eventually cost them any hope of the future they say that they want.
Peace will be determined not by the Israeli leader, but by new Palestinian leadership. In other words, there will be peace when the Palestinians decide they want peace.
Palestinians succeeded in the last two years to get Mr. Sharon elected twice and created consensus on the Israeli side to build a separation wall between the two people. Mr Sharon is the right person for the right time. Whatever Arab nation wanted peace, got peace from Israel. Whoever chooses to fight got back a taste of its own medicine.
Since Sharon came to power, the violence has spiralled upwards and the numbers killed on both sides have dramatically increased.
If the Israeli electorate decide to return him to power, we must assume that they would prefer more of the same, rather than a just and peaceful solution to the problem.
Pete Wolfson, USA
At this point, it really doesn't matter who is elected in Israel. When two sets of people want the same small area, but both are unwilling to share, there can be no solution. It will just keep going on until one side is annihilated, or until two leaders are 'simultaneously' elected who want to compromise.
Most of the comments put the responsibility for peace on Israeli shoulders. However, in my opinion it does not matter what party or leader will be elected by Israelis. What really matter is what kind of leadership governs the Palestinian camp, what their true aspirations are, and what kind of association they have with international terrorism.
To be clear, they have to fully recognize right of Israel to exist, they have to abandon their murderous practices of terrorism, and they have to learn and educate their children to live in peace. Israel proved on many occasions that given these conditions it is willing to compromise and to live side-by-side with the future Palestinian state. I believe that this is the opinion of the vast majority of Israelis as well.
Jeff G, USA
In response to those who say Arafat is not a partner for peace, neither is Sharon. I think Amran Mitzna is the best choice since he has pledged to do what should have been done in 1967: withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I, of course, condemn all attacks against civilians, but what right do Israel have to demand anything from the Palestinians when Israel - according to the UN - is occupying Palestinian land illegally, and creating illegal settlements.
Among the parties not mentioned or linked to is the Meertretz Party, a party of peace that I, as a Jewish American Green Party member have chosen to support. Meretz would undoubtedly be included in a coalition with the Labour Party of Amram Mitznah. Not all liberal American Jews have a blind spot when it comes to the outrageous provocations of the far right in Israel and their deliberate destruction of the peace process.
For better or worse the recently timed large scale attacks on Israeli civilians on the eve of elections will certainly play a big factor in Sharon remaining in power.
Of course Sharon will win the elections, because Israelis want to feel safe and secure. How can other candidates claim to negotiate with the Palestinians, when terror attacks against Israel continue?
Mindy Ebb, Israel
Only the Messiah can get Israel out of the mess it entered with the Oslo Accords. Mitzna and a Palestinian state is a recipe for a major war. Sharon with or without a Palestinian State is a recipe for endless turmoil. Only drastic measures can end the conflict.
Arafat is not a partner for peace. The Oslo agreement was a disaster. As long as Arafat is Palestinian leader Israel needs a strong leader who has the will to hit and hit hard!
The Israeli people will choose whoever they see fit for the job, and no amount of interference by any other country or people will change that. We have to live here, not you. I would never dream of telling any democracy in Europe to change its government because I didn't agree with their policy but for some reason they all feel free to advise me and my friends how to live our lives. Well thanks for the advice but the last time we took your advice it cost us dearly. I voted for Shinui if any of you know who that is.
Five Israeli Prime Ministers since Oslo (three Labour and two Likud) but still no peace. One Palestinian Authority leader is the common link. Remove him and you might get progress. The Israeli general election won't make any difference however it goes.
I believe that Ariel Sharon is best for their leadership. He understands the tough stance that is needed to deal with terrorism.
The question should be who will lead the Palestinians out of a culture of terror. As long as this continues appropriate leadership will be voted in by the people of Israel.
The Israel election is going to decide the future of Palestinians. If Ariel Sharon wins, then the world can expect another round of bloodshed. Amram Mitzna is a only hope for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Sharon's policy is no policy. Since he was elected this last time there has been nothing but hatred and killing on both sides. Sharon's lack of a peace plan is all too obvious. His only mandate seems to be to discredit the elected leader of the Palestinians by any means possible. As for the other candidates, almost anyone would be an improvement.
Sharon is the only reliable choice for Israel at present time. Israelis should ignore attempts of Arabs and liberal western media to show him as an extremist. This is simply not true.
Lisa Stiller, USA
Mr Mitzna is my preferred leader. With the assistance of the USA Sharon is far too keen to wield the big stick and dominate the area.
If the people of Israel chooses for a continuation of this violent regime of Sharon, with only brutal confrontation and without any vision or hope for peace, I believe Europe should treat them as a pariah.
Riyad Tibi, UK/Palestine
I am impressed by the fact that the secular party Shinui is likely to have such a strong showing. This, I think, sends a powerful message to Likud: yes, we think you are the only ones who can deal with the crisis at the moment but we really want a permanent solution which Shinui can deliver.
Ariel Sharon has reacted sensibly and prudently to the Palestinian terrorist aggression. Perhaps the Palestinians will have their own state one day, but their leaders have made it clear that they will continue their unrelenting aggression against Israel regardless. As such, any such state should be far from Israeli population centres and designed to allow Israel to easily defend its borders. Sharon clearly sees this harsh necessity.
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