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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 15:13 GMT
Muted reaction to Sharon's speech
Palestinians watch Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressing the nation
Israelis and Palestinians watched the PM's address
By the BBC's Nick Childs in Jerusalem

Ariel Sharon's television address on Thursday was the most important for him since he became prime minister.

The spiralling violence has meant a growing sense of alarm and despair on the left and right in Israeli society.

People were looking for something new.

But the early reaction suggests they don't feel they got it.

Ariel Sharon
Sharon: Gave a rallying cry to Israelis to pull together

And that seems to have been reflected in very muted public reaction too.

Disappointed

I watched Mr Sharon's address in the home of Avi Mizrahi and Hani Anavy.

Avi is in his early 40s and is a computer consultant.

Hani is a 34-year-old accountant.

They live in their small Jerusalem apartment with their three children - two sons aged 13 and three, and a daughter aged five.

This is just the kind of young middle-class family the prime minister was clearly trying to rally in his call for the nation to pull together in difficult times.


I hoped that he'd give us hope

Hani Anavy

Avi used to be of the left, but has made a big shift to the right since the Palestinian uprising. Hani still leans to the left, but is unsure, and - like Avi - voted for Ariel Sharon last year.

They may not see eye-to-eye on politics, but Avi and Hani were united in their disappointment at what they'd heard.

"I don't see any change or anything new, other than buffer zones," Avi said.

"I don't see any change," Hani agreed. "I hoped that he'd give us hope."

Avi did not see anything in the speech that he thought would make much difference in terms of reducing violence.

Seeking peace

"Maybe in the attempt to address the Palestinian people directly," Avi suggested.

"He told them that Israel is a prosperous country, and that they can join in, we can share that with them," he said.

Despite his disappointment, Avi insisted that he felt Ariel Sharon wanted peace.

"He wants truly to come to a situation where there is calm."

But he is concerned about how volatile the situation in the region remains.

"The road is very bumpy," he said.

In what was in many ways a national pep talk, in the face of growing public alarm and doubts, Mr Sharon insisted that while these are not easy times, the state of Israel is not collapsing and will not collapse.

But neither left nor right seemed happy with what they had heard.

Lack of trust

"I don't think anybody will be happy," said Hani.

"He didn't give any answer to any side."

Behind the scenes, there may be hints at efforts by both the Israelis and the Palestinians to try to calm the situation.

But, clearly, it remains a volatile situation. And Avi agreed it was wrong to expect too much from one speech.

"In the current situation, you can't hope for a miracle from one day to another. It's a long process. And the Palestinians could make a bigger effort not to educate their children to hate."

And, as if to underline what seems to be a total lack of trust now between the two sides, Hani's final observation was to question whether the Palestinians really want peace.

"I'd really like to take my children to school with Arab children together. But I'm not sure if they feel the same," she said.

See also:

22 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel withdraws forces from Gaza
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israelis look for key to peace
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Dissent in the ranks
18 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel reservists back occupation end
25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Yasser Arafat's dilemma
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
15 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Arafat: Down but not out
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Fear and pride in Ramallah
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Palestinian militants 'change tactics'
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Testing time for Sharon
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Divided voices over MidEast
21 Feb 02 | Middle East
Sharon speech: More of the same
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