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Israel's Likud Party Vote Against Palestinian State Seen Unlikely to Damage Peace Process - 2002-05-13

Despite strong objections from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his own Likud party voted Sunday to reject the creation of a Palestinian state. But political analysts in Egypt say while the vote will only further anti-Israel anger among Arab radicals, Arab leaders, they say, will likely not view it as necessarily damaging to the Middle East peace process.

The Likud Party's vote against the creation of a Palestinian state will give ammunition to those Arabs opposed to peace with Israel, said Abdel Moneim Said, head of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. But he says Arab leaders are more understanding of Israeli politics.

"The Arab radicals will say, 'see that's what we have told you, that these people don't want peace and they are not representing only Likud but they are representing the whole Israeli society,'" said Mr. Said. "I think leaders, they look at it as a kind of inter-Israeli kind of politics of extremists and because it happened particularly within the Likud party conference. It is understood, within that conference which is usually ideological, you get that kind of extremism in taking positions. I don't think that within the leaders it will take the same kind of value it takes among the public."

Mohammad Kamal teaches political science at two universities in Cairo. In his view the Likud vote against the creation of a Palestinian state is meaningless when it comes to achieving peace in the Middle East.

"I think that we shouldn't exaggerate this meeting. This is just a party meeting," he said. "We don't deal with parties in negociations we deal with the prime minister of Israel, and the prime minister of Israel has said he is in favor of the creation of a Palestinian state. The question is, what kind of state? What shape? What about the borders, settlements, Jerusalem and so on? So, until we have a new prime minister I think we shouldn't worry too much about what came out of the meeting."

Mr. Kamal says while Mr. Sharon's party "handed him a stinging defeat," he believes, "in the long run damage to the Likud party itself could be far greater." In his words, "the party now runs the very serious risk of being viewed as extremist, both by the international community and among Israelis themselves."