Newsletter : 6fax0215.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Feb. 15, 1996 V4, #29
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Israelis to Vote Separately for Prime Minister
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel is preparing for early elections for prime minister and
parliament, with the future of the Middle East peace process
hanging in the balance. For the first time, Israelis will cast two
ballots this year.
In the past Israelis voted for a political party only, with the
120 parliament seats distributed according to the percentage of
the vote each party received. The leader of the party with the
most seats had the first chance to form a government and be prime
This time the parliament seats will be distributed in the same
way, but there will be a separate ballot for prime minister. If
no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the vote, the top
two will compete again in a run-off. This raises the possibility
for the first time in Israel that the prime minister could face a
parliament in which a majority of the members oppose him on key
But senior Labor Party member and Interior Minister Haim Ramon
believes the opposite will happen. "It will be much easier to form
a coalition under the new system than in the previous one, because
when everybody is aware of the fact that somebody is the prime
minister, that he was elected, they will cooperate with him and
their power to decide who will be prime minister does not exist any
more, and that was one of the main obstacles in the Israeli
The prime minister is expected to be either the current incumbent,
Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, or the leader of the largest
opposition party, the Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu, a former deputy
foreign minister. Peres leads Netanyahu by as much as 22 points in
current public opinion polls.
But whichever man wins he will face several new parties in the
parliament. Former foreign minister David Levy has broken away
from Likud to form his own party, with a large base of Israelis
of North African decent.
Labor has also suffered a split by several of its leading members,
who have formed a new party called "The Third Way." They promise to
pursue peace with a stronger security element, taking a line
between Labor and Likud. In addition, former Soviet dissident
Natan Sharansky has formed a party based on new immigrants, many of
them from the former USSR. And he is expected to also gain support
from Ethiopian immigrants, as well as other Israelis.
Meanwhile, Likud has formed an alliance with the right wing Tsomet
party, although there is considerable debate about how many
centrist voters this will cost Likud in exchange for picking up
some of the most conservative Israeli votes.
And as always in Israeli politics, the several parties representing
religious Jews will play a key role. In the past, they have often
held the balance of power between conservatives and liberals. This
time, analysts say, with the direct election of prime minister and
the creation of the parties, they might have less power.
The key issue in this Israeli election campaign is expected to be
the peace process -- with Labor arguing for full steam ahead, Likud
wanting to put on the brakes, and the other parties mostly
somewhere in between. The outcome will determine how Israel
pursues its on-again off-again talks with Syria and the outcome
of talks with the Palestinians on the remaining, difficult issues
-- including the possible creation of a Palestinian state. That,
in turn, will affect the political and economic situation in the
State Dept. Denounces Farrakhan as 'Shameful'
By Ron Pemstein (VOA-Washington)
The State Department has denounced black Muslim leader Louis
Farrakhan's travels to Libya and Iran. The State Department avoids
taking positions on whether Farrakhan's travels to Libya and Iran
and statements he has made there are treasonous. However,
spokesman Nicholas Burns says Farrakhan's behavior in going to
those places is shameful.
"I think it's shameful that an American citizen, much less a major
religious leader in the United States, would cavort with dictators
like Gaddafi and the Iranian leadership. I think it's shameful
that he would stand in Teheran and declare that his fellow
countrymen live in a country which is the "Great Satan."
The State Department has previously criticized Minister Farrakhan
for failing to raise the case in Libya of passengers killed in 1988
in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Libya has refused to allow
the extradition of two Libyan suspects to stand trial in Britain or
the US in connection with the bombing. Both Libya and Iran are
continually condemned by the United States for their opposition to
the peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Steven Spielberg Buys Rights for Grossman Book:
Steven Spielberg has bought the film rights to the book by Israeli
author David Grossman called "There are Zig-zag Kids" that's been
published in the U.S. this year. His earlier book, "See Chapter
Entitled: Love" is being produced as a movie by Mike Newall,
director of the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
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