02/12/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL
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Israel must now choose between democracy and extremism, Palestinians say

For Bernard Sabella, Christian lawmaker for Fatah, Israel faces a crucial choice: work for a two-state solution or for the ascendancy of only one. Disillusionment in the future of the peace process comes after years of little progress. For Hamas election results represent the victory of “a culture of terrorism.” Palestinian National Authority will have the same “expectations of the international community.”

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – “Israeli society will have to decide whether to adopt the right-wing’s vision or follow a democratic path; build more settlements on the West Bank or stop; work for the birth of two states or the ascendancy of only one,” university professor Bernard Sabella told AsiaNews about the outcome of Israel’s recent parliamentary elections.

For Prof Sabella, who is also a Christian Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for Fatah in Jerusalem, the real loser in the poll was the peace process.

“If truth be told; there has been any major progress in recent years,” Sabella said. “Of course, now the situation gets even more difficult,” because there are two risks: “paralysis or more inflexible positions.” The next few hours and the new government will be decisive. They will show what path Israel will take.

The 28 seats won by Tzipi Lvini’s centrist Kadima party, and the 27 won by Benyamin Netanyahu’s Likud have made Avigdor Lieberman king-maker. With Ehud Barak’s Labour party showing its worst results ever with only 13 seats, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu has become the third largest party in the country with 15 MKs and will play a crucial role in the formation of the new government.

As coalition talks begin, comments from Palestinian leaders are full of criticism.

“These results confirm that the Israeli public has voted for the most bellicose candidates, those who are the most extremist in their rhetoric,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said. “The arrival of the Livni-Netanyahu-Lieberman trio confirms that the terrorist culture dominates Israeli voters,” he added.

“Regardless of the form of government that will emerge,” said Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, “we imagine that the expectations of the international community (towards Israel) will be the same as ours.”

In an even bleaker mood, “elections results show that Israelis have voted in favour of a state of total paralysis,” said Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

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