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By Sarah OZACKY - LAZAR

(JERUSALEM) - Talk! Not shoot. Talk! Not kill. The two new leaderships, Sharon and Abbas, must move fast, winter storms can shut this fragile window forever. For the first time in the Arab Middle East a leader gets only 62% of the votes and not over 95%.

For the first time – true democratic elections, despite unbearable conditions of people under occupation. The Palestinians proved not only to Israel, but to the Arabs and the entire world as well that this is possible.

A candidate who is not very charismatic, rather old and not so much attached to his people – Mahmud Abbas, known as Abu Ma’zen held an intensive election campaign against 5 more competitors and won the trust of his people.

True, not all of the Palestinians voted, many stayed home and did not take part, many in the Diaspora could not vote, prisoners were not allowed to vote but still – the fact is that the Palestinians held peaceful and respectful elections and the thousands of international and national inspectors remained jobless.

The most significant point in these elections, in my mind, is the fact that Abu Ma’zen has openly declared his position against the violent armed struggle – and yet he won. In fact he turned against Arafat’s heritage without saying it aloud and offered his people a different strategy. And as the results show – the majority followed his way.

There are, of course, the militant Hammas people who boycotted the elections and tried to spoil them by shooting missiles from Gaza to Israeli towns in the South, but they failed. Abbas is now trying to negotiate with them and convince them to put their arms down. He is doing it through persuasion and not by force, he is trying to bring them into the internal political process and not to leave them on the margins. This is a clever strategy, one that tries to avoid civil war within the Palestinian society. As an Israeli I can only watch his steps with caution, and hope that he succeeds.

On the meantime in Jerusalem – a new government had been formed. Sharon, a former right wing radical has turned to a “white dove” and added the Labor party headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres to his fragile coalition.

The reason he had to do it is the strong noisy opposition within his own Likkud party against his plan to evacuate the Israeli army from Gaza strip and dismantle Jewish settlements whom he himself built years ago.

He is surprising everyone by his commitment to this plan and the high price he is ready to pay in his political home for that. This is a great mystery – how come an ex general, someone who had been leading the radical right in Israel so many years, a politician who condemned the late Yitzhak Rabin for his willingness to compromise on far less important issues – is now leading Israel towards a peaceful arrangement with its 100 years enemy.

I could hardly believe my ears when I heard that both the president of Israel Moshe Katzav and Prime Minister Sharon called Abu Ma’zen personally to congratulate him, and wished him good luck and success.

A drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah takes 15-20 minutes, but with the road blocks and check points it can take half a day. How long would it take to Sharon to make this trip? Would Abu Ma’zen be allowed to come to Jerusalem to meet his Israeli counterpart?

In these two twin-separated cities new winds of hope and optimism are noticed. Very quiet, still hesitant and rapped with many buts.. and maybe’s… We have been there before in the last 10 years, we had these same feelings in 1993 and 1995 and later in 1999 – and than it all collapsed. So now Israelis and Palestinians alike are more cynical, more careful and reserved, waiting to see if this “window of opportunities” that everyone is talking about is going to open.

One thing that I am certain about is that we cannot do it alone. There is an urgent need for a third party – either the US or Europe or the UN – or better all of them together – to return to the “Road Map” and press the parties to sit down together and talk.

Talk! Not shoot. Talk! Not kill.

The two new leaderships, Sharon and Abbas, must move fast, winter storms can shut this fragile window forever.