JERUSALEM (AP) An angry and dejected Israeli electorate faces a stark choice this week between Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his push for a final peace deal with the Palestinians, and the hawkish front-runner Ariel Sharon, who won a boost yesterday when he was endorsed by Israel”s ultra-Orthodox bloc.

The deck seems heavily stacked in favor of Sharon, a 72-year-old ex-general who promises to quash the four-month Palestinian uprising and cede no more land. He has led in all the polls for weeks by about 20 points a massive spread in a country that for decades has been deeply divided more or less down the middle.

Sharon received more good news when newspapers representing Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox parties, composed of Jews of European background, published announcements from the religious leadership calling on people to vote for him.

A victory for the burly ex-general in tomorrow”s election would be an astounding rehabilitation for a man whose leadership hopes were widely considered dashed when a government commission indirectly blamed him for a 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, and forced him to resign as defense minister.

It would also appear to slam the brakes on the current peace process. Sharon has made clear that he opposes Barak”s offers to the Palestinians and would withdraw them in favor of less ambitious interim deals emphasizing security for Israelis.

Sharon has been vague about his plans. However, he is a lifelong hawk who has opposed the land-for-peace idea and has been a leading patron of the Jewish settler movement. A Sharon plan leaked to Israeli media last month envisions giving the Palestinians no more land but also building no more settlements.

Barak has predicted a peace accord is within reach despite the recent setbacks but he has also warned that if the Palestinians don”t soften their demands he will forgo efforts to reach agreement and unilaterally redraw the map, dismantling some settlements and keeping others.

Many observers believe that whoever wins will have difficulty maintaining a majority coalition in the fractured parliament, and that general elections for prime minister and parliament are almost inevitable within a year.

Sharon has said that if he wins he would make every effort to bring Barak”s Labor Party into a more stable centrist coalition but has not explained how the two parties could possibly agree on a joint platform.

For their part, the Palestinians oppose any more partial deals and insist that negotiations with any Israeli government begin where the outgoing administration left off even though no agreements were reached.

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