While some Arabs wished the comatose prime minister dead, many other Arabs expressed their concern for the health of Ariel Sharon
, the Israeli leader they know as the "Butcher."
"In general everybody is happy here," said Ismail, a Bahraini working for a large telecommunications company, by phone from Manama
. Ismail asked not to give his full name, but said, "Everybody is talking about it and saying, 'Thank God we are getting rid of this bad guy, which is good.' He has done so many things against the Palestinians, Sabra and Shatilla."
Like many Arabs he wondered what awaited the region Sharon. "We don't know what will happen after him," said Ismail. "Will it be someone aggressive or someone softer? But we're not worried. Nothing worse can happen that hasn't already."
Other Arabs were worried and expressed regret that Sharon would no longer be the leader of Israel
at a time when he has shown he is ready to withdraw from land conquered in 1967.
"It's a pity because it really looked like he was going to deliver," said Hisham Kassem, a senior Egyptian media persona speaking to The Jerusalem Post
by phone from Cairo
Kassem, like many other Arabs, recently saw in Sharon a man who could make a final peace agreement with the Palestinians. "Now I'm worried that whoever takes over won't be able to do it. Then we end up another 10 or 15 years before some kind of settlement is sorted out. The last thing I want is to see [Likud
] Bibi Netanyahu in power again."
Hussein Serag, Deputy Editor-in-chief of the Egyptian political weekly, October
, said that the views of Arabs on Sharon depended on their level of education.
"The educated people who understand politics know that Sharon is a strong man who can make peace, like Begin who was strong and made peace with Sadat," Serag told The Post
. "We want him healthy not because we like him but because we believe he can make peace."
An Iraqi hotel worker in Dubai
had no mercy for Sharon. "God willing he will die," said Ali Jassem in a phone conversation. "I am an Arab and I love Palestine
and he hurt the Palestinians."
An Arab military analyst called Sharon "exceptional."
"Sharon has multiple images," said Dr. Mohamed Kadry, a military advisor of Cairo's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "One of them is bad - mainly because of what he did in Lebanon
and against the Palestinians in the last few years."
Like many others Kadry applauded Sharon's decision-making skills. "At the same time he is an excellent general," said Kadry. "He was decisive not only with the Arabs but with the Israelis. He insisted on his plan on unilateral withdrawal from Gaza
and the removal of the Israeli settlements. This was a very brave decision. Like any important figure he has positive and negative attributes. But he is not a normal person. He is exceptional."
"Of course some people in the Arab world don't agree," said Kadry. "They say he was bad before and he stays bad. But I think the man who takes difficult decisions is a man who deserves his job and his place in his history."
Some worried about more Israeli-Palestinian violence and increased instability in Sharon's absence.
"This is a big event," Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of Lebanon's As-Safir
newspaper, told Associated Press. If Sharon dies, it "could lead to the postponement of the Palestinian elections and the Israeli elections and possibly could lead to a security deterioration."
He predicted, however, the repercussions would largely be limited to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"It's a quake, whose aftershocks will be local - Israeli and Palestinian - because the (Mideast) conflict has become a Palestinian-Israeli
one," said Noureddine.