Palestinians won’t miss Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon whether he survives or succumbs to his “critical but stable” condition while battling for his life after undergoing a third brain surgery in an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, but they could not conceal their concern over the political uncertainty and vacuum following the end of his era and could not afford not to “closely monitor the situation.”
The death or incapacitation of Sharon, 77, would create a huge vacuum in Israeli as well as in regional politics.
“We’re uncertain where the Israelis are going to go with the end of the Sharon era,” Palestinian former deputy premier and information minister Nabil Shaath told CNN.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is in touch with Israeli officials about Sharon’s condition. “We are closely monitoring the situation,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Israel’s acting premier Ehud Olmert on Thursday to express hopes Sharon would recover, according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s media adviser, who added that Abbas “has been anxiously monitoring reports from the hospital.”
Olmert said that he would pass Abbas’ message on to the Israeli Cabinet.
After the death of the father of Palestinian nationalism Yasser Arafat, international pressure built for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks. Unilateralism was Sharon’s answer. He sought to draw Israel’s new boundaries without negotiations.
“Sharon achieved neither peace nor security for his people or ours. He simply managed to convince the world that avoiding negotiations by imposing a unilateral policy was fair,” said PNA Minister of Planning Ghassan Khatib.
However, Sharon’s unilateral evacuation of Israeli military and settlers from the Gaza Strip, which was completed on September 12, were seen by some Palestinians as a “precedent.”
“Withdrawal from any part of the occupied territories is good. It creates a precedent, and Palestinians can build on it to achieve their national goal of establishing an independent state,” said Palestinian fighter-turned-historian and analysst Mamdouh Nofal, who battled Sharon’s forces during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
Sharon had been campaigning on a platform of holding on to major West Bank colonial settlement blocs, a prospect Palestinians say would deny them a viable state.
However “a living Sharon is better for the Palestinians now,” Palestinian analyst Ghazi al-Saadi told al-Arabiya satellite television station.
Hamas: Mideast Much More Comfortable Place without Sharon
But Palestinian anti-Israeli occupation factions have a different point of view.
“The Middle East is a much more comfortable place without Sharon,” said spokesman of the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri. “He never added anything positive to the region.”
He described Sharon as “the one who carried out massacres and terrorism for decades against our people” and killed Palestinian leaders.
Islamic Jihad leader Anwar Abu Taha called Sharon a bloody tyrant who should “go to hell.”
Palestinians Unable to Forgive
At the popular level Palestinians were unable to forgive.
“I believe that he (Sharon) should not die before he is tried for the massacres he committed in the past decades – he should be tried in the present life, not in heaven,” said Abdul Rahim al-Shaikh, a philosophy professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank.
Aside from the 1982 massacres at the Lebanese refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla, Sharon since taking office as Israel’s prime minister in March 2001 has presided over a bloodbath that has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 Palestinians, isolated Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah compound and finally “removed” him, built Israel’s Apartheid Wall on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and sliced the area by more than 700 military roadblocks and checkpoints, turning Palestinian daily life into a hell.
The economic suffering caused by Sharon is equally terrible. In 2004, the World Bank reported that after almost four years of conflict and Israeli restrictions on movement, nearly half of all Palestinians were living below the poverty line, with 16 percent of the population unable to afford the most basic necessities. Incomes had dropped by more than a third, and a quarter of the workforce was unemployed.
“He mustn’t die in hospital,” said Feras Astoun, a Palestinian of east Jerusalem.
“As he killed so many Palestinians, so must he be killed. He should die violently. It is the unfortunate truth but most people feel this way,” he added.
“This is the first time that I feel death is good simply because it entails justice,” said Idrees al-Natour, 45, a fishmonger in West Bank city of Ramallah.
Saaed Hamani, in his fifties, who was turned back by Israeli occupation troops as he tried to enter east Jerusalem to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said that, “Sharon is a war criminal, a killer. Dogs can pass to Jerusalem but not us. How can we remember with anything but animosity and hatred?”
Mahmoud Khader, 33, a vegetable peddler was watching Arab satellite channel reports about Sharon’s brain surgery: “The Israelis call him the savior of the Israeli nation. We call him the butcher of the Palestinian people,” he said.
“I hope his disappearance will be good for us, but I fear anyone who follows will be worse,” said Kamel Nakhib, 47, a blacksmith.
However others saw that Sharon’s departure would not herald any change.
“Israeli policy does not change. What changes are the tactics,” said Ismail Abu Al-Abed, 32, a blacksmith and member of Hamas who spent seven years in Israeli prisons.
Imad al-Sarraj, 40, a private school administrator who commutes to work from Ramallah to Jerusalem, agreed: “Whether Sharon is alive or not, the Jews have one policy. They will continue building the wall, which means for me personally that I will lose my job because I won’t be able to get to Jerusalem.”
Other Palestinians expressed indifference. “I am not happy nor I am crying. It means nothing for me because all of them are the same. I do not care,” said Nader Shameyyeh, 40, the owner of a clothes shop in Ramallah.