Newsletter : 6fax0229.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Feb. 29, 1996 V4, #38
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Likud's Netanyahu: We'll be Tougher
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel's conservative opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu took a
jump in public opinion polls this week following Sunday's two
suicide bombings by Palestinian militants. The bombings and the
polls are drawing new attention to Netanyahu and his policies, with
Israeli elections scheduled for May 29. Netanyahu laid out some key
aspects of his policy during a meeting wednesday with Jerusalem's
Foreign Press Association.
Israel's ruling Labor Party says the coming election is a
referendum on the peace process, but Netanyahu says he would
continue the peace process, although in a different way. He says
the election is a referendum on what kind of peace process Israelis
want, and on who they trust to deliver what he sees as the basic
goals shared by Israelis of all political persuasions -- peace with
security and with a united Jerusalem as their capital.
"This is what they want. Now the question is, who do they believe?
And this will be, I think, the main question of the elections.
It's a referendum on who will deliver peace with security, who will
deliver peace with a united Jerusalem, who will deliver peace with
the Jordan valley, that both sides say they will keep. And now the
jury is out. The people will decide who they think will best
deliver such a future for Israel."
That is where Israel's coming political campaign will get down to
specifics of how to achieve the goals most Israelis share. The
ruling Labor Party proposes more autonomy for the Palestinians,
perhaps including the creation of a Palestinian state. But
Netanyahu's Likud Party has always preferred a more limited
Palestinian Autonomy, both in terms of territory and power.
Netanyahu says he will be tougher in demanding that before any new
agreements are negotiated or signed, the Palestinian Authority
fulfill the commitments it has already made, particularly on
"One is the commitment to change the climate of opinion inside the
Palestinian areas regarding peace with Israel. That means changing
the covenant or nullifying the covenant calling for Israel's
destruction, that means stopping hostile propaganda instead of
allowing it. The second thing is the need to dismantle the Hamas
and Islamic Jihad infrastructure. This means closing their
headquarters, it means disarming their operatives, it means putting
them outside the law, it means extraditing the jailed murderers
that have not been extradited."
Those are some of the same steps the Israeli government has just
demanded from the Palestinian Authority following the two suicide
bombings last Sunday. But there is a difference: The government
pledges the peace process will continue, even if there are
difficulties. Netanyahu says he will hold further progress hostage
to Palestinian compliance with existing agreements -- by his
definition. And he says that in any case he will take more
aggressive unilateral action to fight militants when necessary,
and will not give up as much as the Labor Party would in the next
and final round of negotiations.
That is an attractive proposition to many Israelis. But others
warn that his approach does not offer enough to satisfy even the
minimal political desires of most Palestinians. And they say a
Netanyahu victory in may could result in less security, rather
than more, by sparking another intifada -- another violent
Palestinian uprising. Netanyahu rejects that analysis.
"The Palestinian Arabs, like most Arabs, are supremely realistic,
and they tailor their real expectations -- not what they say, I'm
not talking about bravado, I'm talking about real expectations. And
I think that the return to the intifada is something they don't
want. And something they shouldn't even think about from their
interests, not only from ours."
Before Sunday's bombings, Netanyahu was 15 to 20 points behind
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in public opinion polls. But
one poll taken just after the bombings showed him pulling to within
just a few percentage points. That may be a temporary reaction,
but it is already making political commentators take his chances in
the elections more seriously and pay more attention to his version
of peace. And it may also result in a tougher approach on security
issues, and fewer concessions at least in the short term, by Peres.
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