Ramallah, West Bank: He's been a prostitute's rich beau, an officer, a gentleman and a gigolo, but Palestinians can't fathom Richard Gere's latest incarnation as a cheerleader for their elections this weekend.
Well known for his vocal support of Tibet's Dalai Lama and celebrated for his captivating good looks, Gere urged Palestinians in a television commercial broadcast ahead of Sunday's poll in the West Bank and Gaza to get out to vote for a new president to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died in November.
"Hi, I'm Richard Gere and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important. Get out and vote," Gere said in the advertisement.
But many voters, already struggling with the labyrinthine politics of the West Bank and Gaza, say they have never heard of the actor who swept Debra Winger off her feet as a dashing Navy officer in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman and were even less interested when they were told he's an American.
"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar an-Najar told Reuters on Wednesday. "We don't need the Americans' intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them -- they elected a moron."
Arafat's death has stirred international hopes of ending more than four years of Middle East violence. Moderate Fatah faction candidate Mahmoud Abbas is the front-runner to succeed him in the first Palestinian election since 1996.
The Gere spot, sponsored by grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace lobby One Voice, recalled ads put out by Hollywood notables to support Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry in November's U.S. elections. He lost to President George W. Bush.