Arabs reacted with disappointment Wednesday to the results of Israel's general election, some agreeing with King Hussein that a victory by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir would be a blow to Middle East peace prospects.
Foreign Minister Taher Masri of Jordan, whose country shares Israel's longest border, predicted Shamir's Likud bloc would form a coalition government within days with several small ultra-Orthodox religious parties."We think such a government will be a blow to the efforts of peace, especially at this time when everyone, the two superpowers, the world at large, is becoming more flexible about reaching the basis for a peaceful settlement," Masri told The Associated Press.
But Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Butros Ghali told reporters: "Egypt will do business with any new government in Israel in order to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian problem on the basis of implementing the principle of self-determination."
Egypt, the only Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, has worked with Jordan on ways to reach a broader settlement. Both hinted before the election that they favored a victory by Shamir's rival, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Mohammed Milhem said the Israeli vote showed "the society in Israel is not for peace. It seems that in Israel, and for a long time to come, there will be no chance for peace, no chance for a government that advocates peace.
"With Shamir, there may be more chances for peaceful settlement than (with) Peres. He's going to escalate. He's going to kill more people, deport more people," Milhem said.
Assad Abdul-Rahman, a political scientist on the PLO's central committee, said a Likud victory would be better than a continuation of the coalition of the past four years. A relatively weak Likud-led government "will increase polarization within Israeli society," he said.