James D. Besser |
The Clinton administration got part of what it wanted in Monday’s landslide defeat of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the man they regard as most responsible for suffocating Mideast peace talks. But it will be weeks before they know if they got the rest — a quick jump-start to the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a possible resumption of talks with Syria.
The White House and the majority of Jews are certainly optimistic over Ehud Barak’s election. The Washington Post editorial was sure the election produced “from an American vantage point, the right winner.” However, the American vantage point isn’t the only one.
Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator, told ABC’s Nightline: “I don’t think we can have an easy ride with Mr. Barak. ... I think we’re going to face a lot of difficult times.”
By winning a landslide victory this week, Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak has been given a mandate greater than any of his recent predecessors to forge a lasting peace in the Middle East and to heal the divisive rifts that have polarized Israeli society.
Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu, a handsome, charismatic figure who spent nearly two decades on the Israeli political stage, quietly and with dignity announced his intention to step aside from political life Monday after being trounced in his bid for re-election.
As he works to cobble together a coalition government, Ehud Barak signaled the role he believes religion should play in the Jewish state when he included in his One Israel bloc a Modern Orthodox party, Meimad.
“We believe there is no contradiction between a religious state and a democracy in Israel,” said Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, a dean of Yeshiva Ma’ale Gilboa and a member of Meimad.
As Israel’s fourth prime minister in four years begins to stitch together a new parliamentary coalition, some American Jewish leaders are cautiously optimistic that Ehud Barak will fulfill campaign promises and usher in a new era of religious pluralism in the Jewish state.