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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
March 27, 1996 V4, #57
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Peres and Netanyahu Win Primaries
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israelis voted in primary elections Monday and Tuesday to choose
the candidates for the May 29 elections, the first step in a new
political process for Israel.
Members of three of Israel's major political parties gathered at
centers throughout the country to cast their ballots, creating
party lists which will determine who sits in the next Israeli
parliament, the Knesset.
The Labor Party, head of the current ruling coalition, voted on
Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres was guaranteed the
top spot on the party's parliament list, but there was a surprise
for the number two slot. According to preliminary returns,
tourism minister and longtime party activist Uzi Baram won the
coveted position, beating out Foreign Minister Ehud Barak, who
joined the party just a year ago after a long military career.
Two current ministers finished too low in the voting to have
realistic chances of winning parliament seats, and the Internal
Security minister, Moshe Shahal -- who acts as prime minister
when Peres is out of the country -- finished 34th, a safe slot,
but much lower than expected.
The center-right coalition formed by the main opposition party,
the Likud, voted Tuesday. Opposition leader and candidate for
prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will have the number one
spot. Other results of the primary are not known, but many of
the good spots in the top 45 are reserved for members of two
smaller parties which have joined with Likud for this election.
Some Israeli commentators have said the primaries will give an
indication of the future leadership of Israel, or at least of the
makeup of the next government. But Hebrew University political
science Professor Reuven Hazan says past parliamentary lists have
offered no such insights.
The primaries signal the start of a more intensive period in the
Israeli election campaign. This year, for the first time, Israeli
voters will elect the prime minister directly, in addition to
voting for a party list.
The parliament is formed by listed candidates according to the
percentage of the vote their party receives. The elected prime
minister will have to form a government and seek the approval of
a parliament which could be controlled by the opposition. Hazan
and other political scientists warn this could be a recipe for
political disaster. But the politicians who devised the new
system say it will result in a strong prime minister and a
Interfaith Conference Brings People Together
By Judith Latham (VOA-Washington)
Religious people across the United States have begun to work
together in interfaith councils to explore their common beliefs and
values, to feed the hungry and homeless, and to bring about a just
This year, the Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine, director of the
Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and a Presbyterian
minister, says, the seven interfaith groups, members of the local
Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Latter-Day Saints, Protestant, Roman
Catholic, and Sikh faith communities were also joined by Bahai's,
Zoroastrians and Buddhists.
The beliefs of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religions are
familiar to many Americans. But, for some people who attended the
interfaith dialogue, it was their very first opportunity to ask
questions about Islam, Hinduism or Sikhism. Hakim Rashid, a
psychology professor at Howard University and a Muslim, says the
dialogue was a welcome opportunity for him.
"I think it gives us as Muslims as opportunity to clarify a number
of misconceptions about Islam that are really predominant within
this cultural context. Many people who are not Muslim in America,
for example, don't really understand that when a Muslim talks about
'Allah,' the Muslim is talking about the same God that the
Christian and the Jew prays to.
Rashid and the other panelists explored topics such as the Holy
Scriptures of their faith, the role of prayer, their views of the
after-life, the role of women in leadership, traditions of fasting,
and what their religion teaches about other religions. Purushottama
Dasa, a regulatory scientist with the U.S. government and a member
of the Hare Krishna temple in Potomac, Md., says that Hinduism
encourages interfaith dialogue.
"Our scripture is [the] Bhaghavad Gita, and it's a universal Bible,
and it starts out with dialogues with different groups of people.
We like to exchange information and views and to understand each
other. I think that's very important."
About 300 people attended the interfaith conference at Howard
University in Washington. After the dialogue session, they pursued
further questions about each other's beliefs in small group
discussions over supper.
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