MUMBAI: The cancellation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Mumbai on Thursday has evoked mixed reactions in the city.

While a host of Muslim organisations and human rights activists had planned a slew of protests against his visit, local Jews and businessmen expressed disappointment following the cancellation of his visit.

Said Rabbi Joshua Kolet, “We were eager to welcome him and a nice programme with dances and a show had been organised by the Jewish community in Mumbai. After all, it is an honour to meet the prime minister of any country and our people have a very strong connection with Israel.”

Management consultant David Haeems said everyone was looking forward to meeting Mr Sharon. “I am sure the prime minister himself would have liked to interact with Indian Jews. But, while we are disappointed we are also happy that he finished the main business of his trip. Given the gravity of the situation in Israel, it is only right that he should return,” he said.

Aaron Daniel Benjamin, a retired product designer, said, “I am disappointed because I had a message to give to Ariel Sharon on Thursday evening — that he should go ahead with the peace plan in Israel and stop the bloodshed. After all, the problem in the Middle East is destabilising the whole world. The policy of revenge is clearly not working, and is encouraging a spiral of violence.”

Sharon also had a meeting lined up with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as well as several city businessmen, who were eager to meet the Israeli delegation and explore ventures relating to IT,biotechnology and electronics.

CII executives said they were preparing for the meeting for one week as the security preparations were extensive. The number of media persons was restricted and the businessmen who wanted to attend the meeting had to be screened.

Organisations like the Forum against war and terrorism had strongly opposed Sharon’s visit to Mumbai. Several morchas and demonstrations had been planned on Thursday.

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