Despite his declared vision for a viable Palestinian state thriving in peace beside Israel, most Palestinians believe Bush to be an enemy of Arabs and Muslims and a fanatic ally of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

 

They argue that his support of Israel's policies in the occupied Palestinian territories - including extrajudicial assassinations and home demolitions - disqualifies him as an honest peace broker between the Palestinians and Israelis.

 

Bush's pledge to Sharon in early 2004 to support the annexation of large chunks of the West Bank effectively dried up any semblance of Palestinian optimism about his commitment to Palestinian statehood and a just and durable settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 

"We are bracing ourselves for four more years of Israeli repression, murder and terror. I believe that Bush's embrace of Israeli expansionism will now be unmasked and brasher and blunter than ever before," Abd al-Sattar Qasim, political science professor at Najah National University in Nablus, told Aljazeera.net.

 

Qasim said Palestinians should not continue to entertain the illusion that one American administration would be better than another.

 

Hostile American policy

 

"Our problem is not with Bush or Kerry; it is with the established and inherently-hostile American policy which is based on supporting Israel, right or wrong. Hence, I believe that the Palestinian people, along with Arabs and Muslims in this part of the world, should stop looking to America for justice and peace.

 

Palestinians believe the US will
continue supporting Israel

"If we count on the US to restore our rights, then we will have to wait for eternity."

 

A known critic of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat, Qasim pointed out that "Sharon's influence on Bush is much bigger and more real than Bush's influence on Sharon. This is what many Americans don't realise.

 

"I think we have to make the Palestinian cause a personal preoccupation of as many Muslims as possible. In the final analysis, our goal should be to make America's relations with the Muslim world subject to US policies and behaviour toward the Palestinian people," he told Aljazeera.net.

 

Benefit of the doubt

 

Abd Allah Abd Allah, director-general of the Palestinian foreign ministry, however, has a more diplomatic approach to Bush's re-election.

 

"I believe Bush would have to rethink America's blind embrace of Ariel Sharon's anti-peace policies and actions. America needs more friends and less enemies in this part of the world, and, I believe, continued US support of Israeli racism and territorial expansion doesn't serve American interests and doesn't serve the cause of world peace."

 

Abd Allah said the Palestinian leadership would work with the European Union, Russia and regional powers to press the Bush administration to pressure Israel to implement the road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

Most Palestinians do not see a
friend in Bush

"We wish to give Bush the benefit of the doubt, but we have experienced him for four years, and we can't harbour illusions about him and his way of thinking," he told Aljazeera.net.

 

Many ordinary Palestinians have reacted with virtual indifference to the re-election of Bush.

 

"As far as we are concerned, the difference between Bush and [John] Kerry is like the difference between a yellow scorpion and an equally poisonous brown scorpion," said Khalid Abu Salama, a Hebron vendor, alluding to an Arab proverb.

 

Big disappointment

 

Nevertheless, many Palestinians would have preferred to see Bush leave the White House, not so much because they liked Kerry, who never spoke a kind word about the Palestinians either, but rather because they hate Bush for his embrace of Sharon.

 

For them, Bush's re-election is a big disappointment.

 

Some Palestinian intellectuals have expressed a modicum of satisfaction at the re-election of Bush for different reasons.

 

"I am not upset at all by the re-election of Bush. I believe four [more] years of Bush will widen and deepen the gap between the US and the rest of the world, especially Europe. This is in itself a positive thing we will give Bush credit for," said Nizar Ramadan, a Palestinian journalist from the southern West Bank.

 

"I hope one day more than 50% of the American people will realise that Bush is a disaster not only unto the world, but  unto America itself. I think the sooner they realise this, the better for America and for the world."