Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group
8 June 1999
Major Issues Summary
Election Campaign and Issues
Prime Ministerial Campaign
Reactions to Barak's Victory
Challenges for new Prime
Future of the Peace Process
The 1999 Israeli elections saw Ehud Barak
elected Prime Minister with, by Israeli standards, a wide margin.
Unlike the 1996 elections, security and the peace process, while
important, were not the main issues, which had more to do with
incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu's character and style of
The results of the Knesset elections, with 15
parties gaining representation, reflect an increasingly divided
country. However, the ideological divide between Labor and Likud,
which had dominated Israeli politics since the 1950s seems to have
declined. Most Israelis have increasingly accepted the de
facto existence of a Palestinian state. Mr Barak, in seeking
to be the 'Prime Minister for all', hopes to form the widest
possible coalition to unite the country.
Barak's election gives renewed hope that the
Middle East Peace Process, which had been stalled, will be
restarted. He has indicated that he will try to reach settlement on
all major issues within a year and promised that, once agreements
have been reached, a referendum will be held.
Western governments, Palestinian Chairman Arafat
and Arab countries, excepting those opposed to the Oslo Agreement,
have welcomed Mr Barak's victory. They are aware that he is a tough
negotiator and will not, in his desire to seek peace, compromise
On 17 May, Israel went to
the polls to elect a Prime Minister and a 120-member Knesset
(Parliament). The elections determined who will make the tough
decisions on the peace process with the Palestinians and Israel's
Arab neighbours. This brief provides the background to the
elections and the campaign and analyses the implication of the
results for the peace process in the Middle East. (1)
In 1996, Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, representing
the Israeli right led by Likud, defeated Shimon Peres of the Labor
Party, with 50.4 per cent of the votes. The main issue was
implementing the 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement (which provides for a
six-year plan, ending May 1999, for Palestinian self-rule).
Netanyahu opposed the Agreement, which he saw as establishing a
Palestinian state. His coalition government of eight parties
included ideological, religious and immigrant-based parties, had
contradictory and irreconcilable objectives. Juggling these and
dealing with internal crises as well as external pressures on
progress in the peace process was to test his political skills.
After 1996, Netanyahu's 'crash or crash through'
style of government was peppered with issues affecting Israel's
relations with the Palestinians and the stability of his coalition
government. To strengthen his right-wing support, in August 1996 he
ended the four-year freeze on new Jewish settlements in the
Palestinian occupied territories, imposed by the previous Labor
Government (thereby creating more 'facts on the ground' and making
it more difficult for future governments to negotiate with the
Palestinians). Other actions which adversely affected
Israeli-Palestinian relations included the opening of a tunnel near
a Muslim holy site (in September 1996), delaying implementation of
the historic 1993 Oslo Agreement and approving a new Jewish
settlement in disputed East Jerusalem (in March 1998). There were
also personal scandals and major internal disagreements over
withdrawal from 80 per cent of Hebron (which he had promised not to
do in 1996) and internal control given to the Palestinian Authority
(PA),(2) in January 1997. His critics saw the Hebron withdrawal as
de facto acceptance of a Palestinian State. These decisions
resulted in allegations of lies and broken promises by key cabinet
In October 1998 Netanyahu, under the auspices of
the United States, Israel's major ally, signed the Wye River
Memorandum, which included a commitment to give up a further 13 per
cent of West Bank land to the PA before January 1999. This caused
further internal disagreements resulting in the Council of Jewish
Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza declaring that as a result
of his 'pathetic capitulation', he was no longer their leader.(3)
Delays in implementation also strained relations with the United
The above issues caused major defections of key
Cabinet members to other parties and the formation of new
- Benny Begin (former Minister of Science, son of a former Prime
Minister and an advocate of a 'Greater Israel' who opposes giving
up biblical lands to the Palestinians) resigned in protest after
the Hebron withdrawal. He subsequently formed his own National
Union Party and stood as a Prime Ministerial candidate.
- The Center Party was formed by Yitzhak Mordechai, Dan Meridor
and Ammon Lipkin-Shahak (his former Defence and Finance Ministers
and the former Israeli Defence Forces Chief of General Staff
respectively) with the specific aim of 'Dump Netanyahu' as its
mission. With defections from other parties, including Labor, and
eminent individuals, the Center Party sought to offer voters a
middle ground between the ideological Labor and Likud.
- David Levy, a former Foreign Minister, left to join the Labor
- Avigdor Lieberman, a former right-hand man of Netanyahu, left
to form his own Yisrael Beiteinu (Russian Jewish immigrant)
As observed by The Economist, 'Few
heads of government are so vigorously and openly disliked and
despised by so many of their closest colleagues'.(4)
Arieh Deri, former Interior Minister and leader
of Shas (an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party supported by the
Sephardim, Jews from the Middle East) was, pending appeal,
convicted and sentenced to four years in jail (in April) for fraud,
corruption and bribe taking. He claimed that he was framed by the
'elites' (i.e. the Ashkenazim, Jews from Europe who dominate many
of Israel's institutions, including the judiciary). The Shas has
also been embroiled in a bitter struggle with another coalition
partner, the Yisrael Ba'aliya Party which has sought to wrest the
Interior Ministry, with its generous budget, from the Shas.
In December 1998, Prime Minister Netanyahu,
having contributed to the destruction of his right-wing coalition,
and faced with a no-confidence motion (later withdrawn) made a last
minute, desperate call on the Labor Party to form a government of
national unity. The call, to save his 30 month-old government, fell
on deaf ears. Netanyahu's final threat to the Knesset was either to
accept the conditions, which included withdrawing 13 per cent of
the West Bank, for resuming the peace process or go to an election.
Despite intense politicking, the Knesset decided to pass a bill for
new elections, 17 months before they were due. As a consequence,
implementation of the Wye River Memorandum was suspended.
Election Campaign and Issues
The election involved contests for the Prime
Minister's position (chosen by a separate direct vote) and for the
120-member Knesset, selected by proportional representation. For
the first, voters had to consider national interests as their votes
give a mandate for the winning candidate to deal with, among
others, the continuing issues of the peace process. In a separate
vote for the Knesset, voters were able to follow their own
instincts based on religion, ideology and personal affiliations. In
both campaigns observers have noted a curious level of
non-engagement over policy issues such as the peace process and the
Given the close margin of victory in the 1996
elections, the number of new voters and their views were important
in the Prime Ministerial contest. Of the 4.2 million (46 per cent
born overseas) about 382 000 were new voters. This is an increase
of 9.3 per cent since 1996. Half of the new voters are Soviet Jews
with the others comprising those coming of voting age and thus of
unknown political dispositions.
There were initially five candidates for the
Prime Minister's position. In addition to Netanyahu and Barak,
there was Yitzhak Mordechai (Center Party)(6), Benny Begin
(National Union Party) and Dr Azmi Bishara, leader of the new Balad
(National Alliance Party). Bishara has been seeking a better deal
for the disadvantaged Israeli-Arabs, who form 20 per cent of the
Under the Electoral Law, if no candidate wins an
outright majority, the two highest vote winners face a run-off
(which was to be held on 1 June). The prevailing wisdom is that it
is more difficult to motivate voter turnout in the second round and
candidates should therefore seek to achieve a majority in the
first. In the final week of the campaign and with poor showing in
the opinion polls, the last three candidates withdrew. Mordechai
(who had been physically attacked by Likud supporters during the
campaign) in withdrawing, urged his supporters to vote for Barak.
Begin refused to endorse either of the remaining candidates. Given
Netanyahu's attitude to the peace process, it was assumed that
Bishara's Israeli-Arab voters would favour Barak.
Netanyahu, despite the weakening of his right
wing support, was initially confident that his charm, charisma and
television presence, which Barak lacks, he would win in the end. He
fought a campaign almost exclusively on peace and security issues,
as the strong leader who is prepared to defend Israel's interests
against Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and
other Arabs.(7) His election stickers read 'Only Netanyahu: A
Strong Leader for a Strong Nation'. This strategy was almost a
repeat of the last elections. Netanyahu's decision, during the
campaign, to close Orient House, the political headquarters of the
Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem (the close was delayed by a
court injunction) was seen as provocative.(8) Arafat's decision
(under intense pressure from the United States, the European Union
and some Arab countries) not to declare an independent State of
Palestine on the 'sacred date' of May 4 (the expiry date of the
Oslo Agreement) was seized on by Netanyahu as a victory. Netanyahu
had threatened 'severe measures' implying that he would annex the
West Bank if a declaration were made.(9)
The Palestinians, who had been given written
assurance of external support for their cause, were unwilling to be
pawns in the election campaign and thereby helped to undermine
Netanyahu's strategy. (In early May, President Clinton wrote to
Arafat urging him not to make a declaration of independence and
offering support for the Palestinian 'right to live free in their
homeland'. Likewise, the European Union's quid pro quo was
that it gave Israel a year to fulfil the Palestinian 'unqualified
right' to independence.(10)) This lack of direct action is in
contrast to 1996 when several bomb attacks, which caused many
civilian casualties, were carried out by extremist elements during
the election campaign, helping the Likud campaign.
By signing the Wye River Memorandum, and
agreeing to withdraw from more occupied territories, Netanyahu had
also weakened his case against a future Palestinian state.
Moreover, faced with Barak, a former Head of the Israeli Defence
Forces, Israel's most decorated soldier (five medals for bravery)
and Netanyahu's former commander in the elite unit Sayeret Matkal,
Netanyahu's claim, also made against Peres in 1996, that Barak was
soft on the Palestinians was less than convincing.(11) It was also
significant that the 1999 Likud election platform did not include
any commitment to keep all of the Golan Heights (occupied Syrian
territory) under Israeli sovereignty. This was a key issue in 1996
and won the votes of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories
for Netanyahu (see below).
Unlike 1996, security, while remaining important
to voters and external observers, was no longer the compelling
ideological issue dividing the electorate. There has been a growing
consensus within Israel that whoever became Prime Minister would
have to reach some form of agreement with the Palestinians if peace
is to be achieved.(12) Israeli attitudes towards the PA have also
been changing. According to a survey in March 1999, 61.5 per cent
of Israelis see the PA as either a 'very genuine' or 'genuine'
peace partner. This is an increase from 52.3 per cent in a similar
survey in 1997.(13)
Towards the end of the campaign, and with polls
indicating declining support, Netanyahu, in response to a
derogatory remark ('riff-raff') by a left-wing politician against
the Sephardim, attacked the left, claiming that they 'hate the
people. They hate the Sephardim, the Ethiopians...the
Russians...everybody'. Barak distanced himself from the 'riff-raff'
remark and accused Netanyahu of trying to drag the country into a
'civil war'(14) On election eve Netanyahu accused Barak of making
deals with Bishara and urged Mordechai's supporters to 'come
home'.(15) He also pleaded with the electorate not to 'repeat the
mistake of 1992' (i.e. voting Labor which negotiated the Oslo
Agreement) saying that the 'left' would 'establish an Arab state in
the heart of the country, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv that will
put our very existence at risk'.(16)
Barak (who had taken over the leadership of the
Labor Party from Shimon Peres and reincarnated it, with two smaller
parties, Gesher and Meimad, as One Israel), focussed his campaign
as a referendum on Netanyahu's style of leadership and (lack of)
character and trustworthiness. He also highlighted the failure of
Netanyahu to reduce the 8 per cent unemployment rate and
concentrated on domestic issues such as education and health care.
Barak's campaign stickers read 'Israel Wants Change' and 'There is
Hope With Barak'. His election eve speech dwelt on his vision of
national unity and urged all supporters, including Likud, to
realise his dream and help repair the damage of Netanyahu's
'divisive and inciting campaign'.
Both Barak and Netanyahu also sought to woo the
support of the Russian Jews whom, since the collapse of the Soviet
Union, have been the largest migrant group, comprising 14 per cent
of the electorate, and thus a critical bloc of voters. As noted
above, half the new voters were Russian Jews. The Yisrael Ba'aliya
Party, led by Natan Sharansky (Minister of Industry and Trade) had
been part of Netanyahu's coalition but remained neutral on the
Prime Ministerial race. However, the party faced a bitter struggle
with a new rival, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home). This party
led by Avigdor Lieberman, formerly Netanyahu's right-hand man, has
no love for Sharansky. Lieberman has called Israel a 'police state'
and accused police, prosecutors and the courts of endemic
corruption and racism.(17) The party shares some of Shas' views of
the Ashkenizm 'elites' and opposes withdrawal from southern Lebanon
and the freezing of settlements.
Under the proportional voting system, the 33
contesting parties/blocs needed to win at least 1.5 per cent (about
55 000 votes) to win a seat in the Knesset. The major and new
- One Israel: Left of center, supported by the Ashkenazim
- Likud: Right wing supported by the Sephardim (Middle Eastern
and non-European Jews)
- Shas: Serphardic Ultra-Orthodox religious party
- Meretz Democratic Israel: Left wing, support includes workers,
the peace and civil rights activists and advocates religious
- Yisrael Ba'aliya: Center party formed by former Soviet
- Center Party: New party, non-ideological
- National Union: New breakaway party from Likud, extreme right
wing and opposed to giving up any land of 'Greater Israel'
- Shinui: New party, formed by defector from Meretz, secular and
- Yisrael Beiteinu: New Soviet immigrant party formed by
defectors from Yisrael Ba'aliya. Hawkish on the peace process and
- Balad (National Democratic Alliance): New Israeli-Arab
In addition to minor religious parties there
were a number of single-issue parties including Men's Family
Rights, Power for Pensioners and the Casino Party.
In the absence of debate on substantive issues,
the campaign for the Knesset, as revealed in speeches and
advertisements, were seen by local journalists as motivated by
hate, 'where everybody hates everybody else: Ashkenzim-Sepharim,
religious-secular, Right-Left, Russians-Moroccans'(18). It was the
most fractious in recent history as Israelis reverted to tribal
loyalties based on religious, ideological and racial affinities. A
survey in March 1999 found that 62 per cent believe the
secular-religious divide was the country's most serious problem
compared to 18 per cent on the ideological (Labor-Likud) division
over the peace process.(19)
These differences relate to the domestic debate
of whether Israel is a Jewish, secular, or democratic State and the
nature of 'Jewishess' of its Jewish citizens. The haredim,
ultra-orthodox, constituting 50 per cent of the voters in Jerusalem
itself and commanding crucial support in Netanyahu's coalition,
fears that demands by the left and the secular, in seeking to water
down the answer to the question 'Who is a Jew?', based on a
tolerant and liberal democratic society, would eventually result in
a gentile people who happen to speak Hebrew.(20)
Many secular Jews resent the influence,
arrogance and power of the haredim whose political
activities and religious practices affect their daily lives. The
secular Jews support the anti-haredim Shinui, led by
controversial and provocative TV talk host Tommy Lapid. Lapid had
launched a strident campaign against the haredim who in
turn has called him a fascist, and an anti-Semite. Lapid has
reported death threats against himself.
Barak won the Prime Ministerial ballot with 56
per cent of the vote thus avoiding a further divisive campaign for
a run-off election. Compared to 1996, this was a landslide margin
and has been seen by local observers as a 'political earthquake'.
The results show that the electorate appeared to tilt towards the
left as a consequence of the implosion of the right-wing bloc.
In contrast to the outright win by Barak in the
Prime Ministerial contest, the Knesset result was more varied. The
new Knesset, with fifteen parties, four more than its predecessor,
is even more divided. The major winner, in terms of seats, was
Shas, increasing their seats from 10 to 17. The party claimed that
the election was a referendum on its leader's trial (see p.2).
However others saw the Shas as instrumental in destroying the right
by giving rise to the secular Shinui and that Shas' feud with
Yisrael Ba'aliya (see p.4) had driven Russian Jews to support
Barak.(21) One Israel with 26, lost 8 seats, Labor's lowest. Likud
won 19, losing 13 seats, which also equalled its lowest total. Two
small parties, The Third Way and Tsomet (The Movement for Renewed
Zionism) did not win any seats. The Third Way was the party of the
Golan settlers and in 1996 won 4 seats on the slogan 'The Nation is
with the Golan'. The new anti-haredim Shinui won 6. The
leader of National Union Benny Begin, which won only 3 seats, has
since left politics as a matter of principle.
The new Knesset has also established a number of
records. It has, with 14, the highest number (including an Arab) of
women, recent immigrants (Russian) 11 and 12 Israeli-Arabs. There
are now three parties representing Israeli-Arabs, up from two.
1999 Elections Results (Winning Parties
No. of Seats
One Israel (formerly Labor)
The Center Party
National Religious Party
United Torah Judaism
United Arab List
Democratic Front for Peace and Equality
Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home)
National Democratic Alliance (Balad)
One Nation for Israeli Workers and
Numbers in ( ) refers to seats held in the old
# Excluding Gesher and Meimad; @ including
Gesher and Tsomet; * Part of Likud
Reactions to Barak's Victory
Western media and governments have generally
welcomed Barak's victory with the expectation that renewed efforts
will be made to move the peace process forward.
Reactions from the Palestinians and Arab
countries have been more subdued and varied.(22) Arafat, in
congratulating Barak, expressed hope that he will advance the peace
process and other Palestinian leaders expressed hope for a 'new
era' in their relationship with Israel. A Hamas spokesman, Jordan
Ghawshah, said that Barak and Netanyahu are 'two sides of the same
coin'. Jordan interpreted the election result as 'a chance to renew
Israel's commitment to the peace' and hoped that Barak would give
priority to the resumption of the peace process on all tracks.
Egypt's Foreign Minister said Barak has a
mandate to reactivate the peace process and Egypt is prepared to
co-operate. The Lebanese Prime Minister Dr Salim al-Huss argued
that there was no difference between the two candidates and noted
that all the Israeli wars against the Arabs occurred when the Labor
Party was in power. Mufti Shaykh Abd al-Amir Qabalan, Deputy
Chairman of the Higher Islamic Shi'i Council (whose Iranian
supported party Hizbollah is fighting against Israel in southern
Lebanon) warned against Israeli traps and urged Arabs not to accept
Barak's statements. Likewise, Iranian radio rejects the 'excessive
optimism' for the peace process as a result of the elections. A
Syrian newspaper, Tishrin, urged Barak to adopt a
'radical' change of policy with a view to withdraw fully from the
Golan Heights and Lebanon (see below).
Challenges for new Prime Minister
The first challenge for Barak is to form a
stable coalition government and, as he said in his victory speech,
unite the country by ending the internal divisions. By law he has
45 days (i.e. until the second week in July) to achieve this, even
though the new Knesset meets on June 7. While he could govern with
the left and centre parties, Barak has stated that he wants to form
the widest possible coalition, and according a party spokesman, of
some 90-95 seats to ensure that the defection of any single party
will not bring down his new government. One Israel has begun the
difficult process of negotiating with almost all the winning
parties. During the campaign Barak also promised that any permanent
deal with the Palestinians would be put before the country at a
referendum. For this to be approved, he will need the widest base
of support in the Knesset.
Some of the future partners in his coalition
have already declared that they would not join if another
particular party forms part of the government. Shas, whose leader
Deri has resigned,(23) would not sit with Shinui nor with Yisrael
Ba'aliya. Meretz has also objected to Shas.(24) There were also
calls by Barak's supporters, during his victory celebration in
Rabin Square, not to include Shas.(25) Ba'aliya's leader Sharansky
claims that his party is the 'real center' and 'has the important
task of ensuring there will be a national unity government'.(26) It
has been reported that the party, with some dissension, does not
want Shas, Shinui and Yisrael Beiteinu because of their potential
divisiveness in the future coalition.(27) Likud, with Netanyahu
resigning from the Knesset, and now led by hardliner Ariel Sharon,
has also been invited to the talks.(28)
Future of the Peace Process
In his victory speech on 18 May, Barak drew
'four red security lines' in relations to the peace process with
the Palestinians. These are:
a united Jerusalem under our sovereignty as the
capital of Israel for eternity, period; under no conditions will we
return to the 1967 borders; no foreign army west of the Jordan
River; most of the settlers in Judea and Samaria (i.e. occupied
territories) will be in settlement blocs under our sovereignty and,
any permanent arrangement will be put to a national referendum for
the people to decide.(29)
One of his close advisers and peace negotiator,
Yossi Beilin, had indicated that the new government would try to
complete the whole peace process, including the final status talks
with the Palestinians, within a year. (The United States, before
the elections, had apparently proposed to Arafat the extension of
autonomy for a year until May 2000, which will also be the deadline
for a final accord.(30))
It is significant that since the elections, the
powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in reversing a
long-standing policy, announced that it no longer opposes a
Palestinian state, though it did not fully commit itself directly
to one.(31) On the final status of the Palestinian State, the
Committee favours Israeli negotiations and not a unilateral
declaration by the Palestinains. This Committee has been
instrumental in shaping and influencing the views and perceptions
of Americans, be they President, Congress or the public, on issues
affecting Israel. In the past, differences of opinion have allowed
the Committee to pit Congress against the President's policy on
Israel in particular and the Middle East in general.
Since the elections, there has been a flurry of
activities by some of the key players in the peace process. The
Palestinians fear that Barak's promise to withdraw from southern
Lebanon 'within a year' may be seeking to deal with that issue at
the expense of the Palestinians. Arafat has proposed a five-way
Arab summit and Egypt has invited Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the
Palestinians to a summit to determine a unified position for peace
talks with the new government. Syria, which opposed the Oslo
Agreement, has yet to respond. Jordan's King Abdullah has visited
Arafat in Gaza and Lebanon emphasising that the core issue is an
independent Palestinian state. US President Clinton phoned Syria's
President Assad, on 28 May, promising that he will make a personal
effort to revive Syrian-Israeli peace talks. Syria has indicated
that it will be prepared to continue from where negotiations broke
down three years ago (see p.10).
Barak's decisions on more immediate
Israeli-Palestinain issues will determine the atmosphere of the
renewed peace talks. These issues include the freezing of
settlements(32), stopping actions in Jerusalem such as the closure
of Orient House, the demolition of an estimated 2000 listed houses
and confiscation of identity cards. Others will also include
implementation of the Wye River Memorandum and the launching of
permanent status talks on Jerusalem, borders, refugees and other
outstanding issues.(33) He has said that he will not make any
decisions on these until he has finalised his new coalition.
According to Professor Asher Arian of Haifa
University, in a comment before the elections, 'The 1999 election
is a fight for the voters in the middle, who don't want war but
don't want too much peace, who don't want religion but don't want
too much secularism'.(34) The diversity of parties represented in
the Knesset bears out this view. The challenge for Barak is to
mould this diversity into a team that will not see politics as a
'zero-sum' game. His hobby of taking apart watches and putting them
together again will be tested. His military background and
acknowledged intelligence in dealing with issues has assured the
majority of Israelis who voted for him that he will not put the
nation's security at risk. He has said that 'the time for peace has
come, not peace through weakness, but peace through might and a
sense of security; not peace at the expense of security but peace
that will bring security'.
The election of Barak and the results in the
Knesset augur well for the peace process. The pace, which has
almost ceased to exist, will be accelerated but there will still be
tough negotiations. His task is aided by the growing internal
consensus that a Palestinian state is inevitable and by a perceived
decline in the influence of its strongest opponents. The future
negotiations will also require diplomacy, an area in which Barak
has limited experience. An indication of this skill will be in the
formation of his government.
The key to Middle East regional peace is Syria,
which has demanded the unconditional return of the Golan Heights.
Syria also hosts radical Palestinian groups and is opposed to
Arafat, since it sees Palestine, 'southern Syria', as part of
'Greater Syria' (which includes Lebanon, Palestine and Israel).(35)
In terms of the future of Syria-Israeli peace talks, the loss of
all seats by The Third Way indicates that Israel is psychologically
prepared to return the Golan. Since Syria has always stated that it
will not accept any deal without full Israeli withdrawal from the
Golan, the withdrawal of an estimated 15,000 settlers, while
painful, will have to be part of a peace deal. This has its
precedent when, as part of a peace deal, Israel dismantled
settlements before the Sinai peninsula was handed back to Egypt in
1982. With an estimated 35 000 troops in Lebanon, Syria's influence
in that country is not insignificant and could help in finding a
way for Israel to withdraw from its self-imposed security zone in
southern Lebanon. Syria has expressed a willingness to resume
talks. Since the elections, it has been reported that Netanyahu had
continued to conduct secret talks, through go-betweens (from Oman
and the European Union), with the Syrians.(36)
The issue of peace negotiations with the
Palestinian Authority, if it is to deal with final status talks
simultaneously, is much more complex and is bedevilled with
strongly held emotions by both sides on Jerusalem. Despite 'red
security lines' and ambit claims, it is not impossible to see a
future Palestinian State arising through a transition, which has,
despite delays, already begun. The nascent, but fragmented,
Palestinian State will continue for some time until both sides are
confident of the other's good intentions. Likewise, it is not
unlikely that a similar solution could be found for Jerusalem with,
perhaps areas within it such as Orient House, designated
'Palestine'.(37) Though Edward Said, a US based Palestinian
academic and advocate of Palestinian independence, has criticised
the Palestinian controlled areas as a 'Swiss Cheese' state, the
fact remains that after more than fifty years of conflict; the
Palestinians have now a place they can start to call 'home'. It has
been noted above that there have been changes on both
sides. Palestinians, in recent years, appear to have become more
concerned with economic rather than political issues. A survey by
Professor Bernard Sabila of Bethehem University had revealed that
while 90 per cent of Palestinians support a unilateral declaration
of independence and 84 per cent wished for the 'liberation of all
Palestine', 78 per cent also wants closer economic ties with
Israel, and 65 per cent recognises the right of Israel to exist. Of
interest is that 66 per cent of those surveyed, are also against a
return to violent struggle. (38)For the Palestinians the slow
process of what Hannan Ashrawi calls 'exchanging the mentality of
revolution for the mentality of civil society'(39) has also begun.
Significantly, this is despite the continuing problems of
maladministration, human rights abuses and perceived corruption
within the PA leadership.(40)
While the final outcome of the peace process
will have to be determined by the key players in the region, it is
important that countries like the United States continue to provide
crucial support and encouragement to all participants. The aim
should continue to be to ensure that the results will be seen, and
accepted, as a 'win-win' for all, by the biggest majority
Prime Minister Barak, has acknowledged that he
'will be facing some of the most difficult and fateful decisions in
the history of the State of Israel'. His test will be to convince
his fellow citizens that after tough negotiations, Israel is strong
enough to finally take the risks for peace that his mentor Yitzhak
Rabin initiated with the Oslo agreement.
- For a brief overview of the process see Michael Ong, 'Middle
East Peace Process: Background and Issues', Research Note, No
37, Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1996-97.
- Note that the Palestinians referred to this as the Palestinian
National Authority and refers to Arafat as
President, while to the Israelis, he is Chairman
- Jerusalem Post, 26 October 1998. (Note all citation is
from the Internet edition)
- The Economist, 15 May 1999.
- Mordechai is a Kurdish Jew and his appeal is to the large
number of Sephardim, Jews of Middle East origins, a key component
of Netanyahu's support in 1996.
- David Makovsky, Israeli Elections Mark End of Ideological
Struggle, Middle East Insight, Vol. XIV, No.3, May-June
1999, p. 7
- Jerusalem is also claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of
its future state.
- Guardian Weekly, 9 May 1999.
- Guardian Weekly, 4 April 1999.
- Likud slogans claiming that Barak will cede parts of Jerusalem
were 'Barak will relinquish' and 'Barak will buckle under'.
- The Economist, 15 May 1999 and David Makovsky, op.cit.
- Jerusalem Post, 17 March 1999.
- Canberra Times, 8 May 1999.
- With these two in the race, it was acknowledged that Barak
would not win outright in the first round of the elections.
- Jerusalem Post, 17 May 1999.
- Jerusalem Post, 9 May 1999.
- Herb Keinon, The Hate Motif, The Jerusalem Post, 6 May
- A Nation Divided, BBC News (Internet), 6 May 1999.
- For a fuller discussion of some of these issues see Hugo Young,
Peace Postponed, Guardian Weekly, 16 May 1999.
- Herb Keinon, Those unsinkable Shasniks: Anatomy of a triumph,
Jerusalem Post, 20 May 1999.
- This material draws heavily on the BBC, Summary of World
Broadcasts Middle East 3538-9, 19 and 20 May 1999.
- Barak has said he would not negotiate with Shas if Deri remains
- Meretz also wants commencement of the Syrian and Lebanese peace
talks, freezing of all Jewish settlement activities in the occupied
territories and a constitution to include the right of freedom of
religion and from religious coercion.
- Barak has demanded that Deri may neither lead the party de
jure nor de facto; relinquish demand for the Interior
Ministry; show respect for the law by the party and full
transparency and accountability in the running of Shas
institutions. Jerusalem Post, 25 May 1999.
- Jerusalem Post, 17 May 1999. The party also wants the
- Jerusalem Post, 20 and 30 May 1999.
- Sharon has publicly stated to European diplomats, that Israel's
military triumphs have rendered Jerusalem's status as a 'separate
entity' in UN Resolutions 'null and void'. Jerusalem Post,
17 March 1999.
- BBC News, 18 May 1999.
- This was originally reported in the Hebrew daily
Ma'ariv and quoted by Guardian Weekly, 4 April
- Jerusalem Post, 25 May 1999.
- The UN General Assembly has voted 115-2 calling for an
international conference to enforce a ban on settlement activities
in the occupied territories, which according to the Resolution,
violates the Fourth Geneva Convention. Courier Mail, 11
February 1999. It is estimated that there are about 180 settlements
with two dozen by-pass highways linking them. There are also about
200,000 settlers in Gaza and the West Bank (excluding those in the
disputed Jerusalem area).
- Ben Lynfied, What's in Palestinian hearts and minds,
Jerusalem Post, 13 May 1999 quoting several PA leaders.
- Jerusalem Post, 9 May 1999.
- See Barry Rubin, The Geopolitics of Middle East Conflict and
Crisis, Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol
2. No 3, September, 1998.
- Jerusalem Post, 30 May 1999.
- According to Henry Kissinger, apart from further deferment,
'The only available choice seems to be to incorporate an adjoining
suburb into Jerusalem and make it the seat of the Palestinian
government (together with a special status for the Arab and
Christian holy places)'. Winning the Peace in Palestine, Sydney
Morning Herald, 4 February 1999.
- Quoted by Hillel Halkin, The State of the Palestinians, The
New Republic, 17 May 1999, pp. 27-33.
- Quoted in Halkin, op. cit., p. 28.
- For a cross section of the views of Palestinians towards the PA
see Halkin and Young, op. cit.