Upon hearing of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's sudden resignation over the weekend, Palestinian officials gloated that the renewed intifada had brought him down, but also lamented over the resulting delay caused by new elections.
Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, speaking in Riyadh, claimed Barak's resignation came as a result of the Palestinian intifada. Later, he charged the resignation "means peace talks will stop until the elections are over. This is not the first time the talks and implementation are delayed," Arafat told reporters in Gaza. "He [Barak] is famous for non-implementation and for wasting time."
Addressing the possibility of a Likud candidate coming to power, Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti said a government headed by Likud chairman Ariel Sharon or former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu would not bother the Palestinians. On the contrary, it would motivate the Palestinians to escalate the intifada, and gain them world support for the Palestinian cause. "Barak and Sharon are today the same in the eyes of the Palestinian people - they compete who has more Palestinian blood on their hands," he said.
Husseini Sheikh, another Fatah leader, also was not worried by the prospects of a Likud prime minister. "Don't forget that Netanyahu signed and implemented the Hebron agreement," he said.
In Mecca, Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas' political bureau, told AP that Barak's resignation can be attributed directly to the Palestinian intifada. "The intifada should continue," Mashaal declared, "it has caused such great confusion among the enemy and brought his downfall."
There was a surge of criticism of Barak throughout the Arab world. A commentator on state-run RADIO DAMASCUS declared that Barak "is looking for an alibi to remain in power... It's clear that spilling Arab blood is the strongest card in this sanguinary bazaar, in which the enemy's leaders vie with one another to display the most extreme, harsh policy. It appears that the one who hates Arabs the most, who kills the most Arabs and demolishes the most homes, will be the one with the greatest chance of success in the elections."
Egypt's leading daily AL-AHRAM expressed concerns that internal political feuding in Israel may prove costly to the Palestinians. Israel's elections might send the Palestinian-Israel conflict into a new vicious circle, the paper wrote in an editorial.
In Lebanon, Hizb'Allah took partial credit on Sunday for Barak's resignation. The radical Shi'ite militia's two decades of fighting in southern Lebanon, together with the 10-week old Palestinian intifada, led to Barak's downfall, Hizb'allah claimed.
Jordanian newspapers interpreted Barak's resignation as a sign that conditions for peace in Israel are not ripe. AD-DUSTOUR declared on its front page that "the intifada forced General Barak to go home."
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.