Newsletter : 6fax0531.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
May 31, 1996 V4, #99
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Netanyahu is Apparent Winner
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel's opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be headed
for victory in Israel's election for prime minister, but his lead
is so small that the final outcome must await the counting of
150,000 absentee ballots, which begins today.
Netanyahu's lead is just 21,000 votes out of nearly 3 million cast,
a margin of just 0.7 percent. But analysts believe it will likely
be enough to put him in office unless the absentee ballots
unexpectedly reverse the voting patterns of the general population.
Neither Netanyahu nor Prime Minister Shimon peres has issued a
formal statement, and Peres ordered his ministers not to comment
until the final results are known. But Netanyahu's spokesman says
the likely winner has expressed a commitment to pursue the Middle
East peace process -- although on tougher terms than the current
government as he laid out in the campaign -- and to heal the rift
in Israeli society which the close election results underscored.
On Thursday, Israel Radio broadcast an interview with Netanyahu
conducted shortly before Election Day, in which he outlined what
his first priorities would be if he were elected.
"The first thing that I will do is to change the path toward peace,
to change it to a different direction that I believe can bring us
a secure peace. In practice, this means that we will not
disregard the facts that have been established since Oslo, but we
will make sure that the other side, the Palestinian side, keeps all
its obligations. Secondly, we'll return freedom of action
for the IDF and the Israeli security forces to act against
terrorists as needed."
Netanyahu said this will not be an easy job, but he said he is
confident he can overcome the kind of terrorism which hit Israel
earlier this year, and severely hurt public confidence in the
previous government. He also said he will offer the Palestinians
what he called a "generous" autonomy plan in final status
negotiations. But he said he will not agree to the creation of
a Palestinian state or to any division of Jerusalem.
"I would offer the Palestinians the opportunity to run just about
every aspect of their daily lives, with the exception of security
and foreign affairs, that will remain in our hands. I will prevent
the re-partition of Jerusalem. I will ensure its unity. And we
will close the PLO offices in the city. I think that this is a
different path, a new path, one that will give us the security we
crave and the peace we deserve."
Analysts attribute Netanyahu's ability to eliminate Peres' strong
early lead in the race to Israeli concerns about security in the
wake of the four terrorist bombings earlier this year.
Palestinians expressed concern at the possible Netanyahu victory,
but also hope that he will moderate his campaign positions if he
actually gets into the prime minister's office. A spokesman for
the militant group Hamas said Israelis have shown they are not
interested in peace and predicted renewed conflict. Some officials
of the Palestinian Autonomy Authority expressed pessimism at the
possible result of the Israeli election, but others noted
Netanyahu's commitment to continue the peace process and said they
hope the situation will not be as bad as some think. The
Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, has not commented.
Israel's Election Commission will begin counting the absentee
ballots this morning, a process which could take until sometime
on Sunday. Only then will Israelis, Palestinians and everyone
else know for sure who the next prime minister of Israel will be.
The Israeli public, after going to sleep under the impression that
Shimon Peres had been re-elected prime minister, woke up Thursday
to find out the exact opposite: Benjamin Netanyahu, after a
preliminary count of 100% of the polling stations, leads Peres
50.35% - 49.65%.
The results do not include the votes of the soldiers, the navy,
prisoners, those who are hospitalized, and questionable ballots.
The final count of these ballots, which represent another 150,000
votes, is expected to be completed Friday. The bulk of these votes
are from the military, which traditionally votes towards the right
of the political spectrum.
Elections for Knesset: The two major parties lost much of their
strength, while the religious parties gained greatly, and two new
parties will be impressively represented in the 14th Knesset. The
preliminary results are as follows (minor changes may occur in the
Labor - 33 Likud - 31
Shas - 11 NRP - 10
Meretz - 9 Yisrael BaAliyah - 7
Hadash (Arab list) - 5 United Torah Judaism - 4
Third Way - 4 United Arab List - 4
Moledet - 2
Among the Jewish vote, Netanyahu is leading by almost 11%. Although
the Arabs voted overwhelmingly in favor of Peres, giving him well
over 90% of the vote, and despite their relatively high voting rate
- 77%, over 7% more than in 1992, many political commentators feel
that the Arabs did not "supply the merchandise" for Labor in
Tens of thousands of Israeli-Arabs abstained, by placing a blank
slip of paper in the ballot box. Loudspeakers from mosques and cars
instructed Arab residents to go to the polls; PLO radio and
Jordanian television also broadcast calls to Arab residents of
Israel to vote.
Following the release of the TV polls at 10:00 PM which predicted
a victory for Peres, hundreds of Arab youth in Nazareth and other
villages mobbed the streets and told reporters: "We the Arabs
decided who would be the Prime Minister of Israel. Never will we
allow the Jewish Nationalist camp to return to power."
Other reactions to the apparent Netanyahu victory:
"I feel like packing up my suitcases and leaving the country."
"The Jewish people decided that Netanyahu is good for the Jews."
- MK Tzachi HaNegbi (Likud)
"This is the absolute proof that there is a God."
- Minister Yosi Sarid (Meretz), referring to the
fact that Meretz lost only 2 seats, despite the
polls to the contrary and the Peres loss.
"It's worthwhile to be cautious and to wait for the final
- Former Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir. He also
said that he thinks a national unity government
will not be formed.
"Whether we win or lose, we will not agree to a national unity
- Labor Party Secretary Nissim Zvilli
"A great thank you to all of the Arab voters!"
- Minister Uzi Baram, when he thought that Peres
Sharansky's Olim Party Wins Seven Knesset Seats
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
One of the big winners in Israel's parliament elections was the new
party of recent immigrants, led by the former Soviet dissident
Natan Sharansky. Results indicate the party will enter Israel's
120-member knesset with seven seats.
Israel is a country which has absorbed successive waves of
immigration -- absorbing each into various parts of its political
mainstream. But the flood of more than 600,000 immigrants from the
former USSR during the last seven years was unprecedented. And,
this group of immigrants had more trouble fitting into Israeli
Experts offer many theories for this, including the sheer size of
the group in a country of just over 5 million people. They also
point to the high expectations of the generally well-educated
former Soviet immigrants and to what some call 'absorption fatigue'
among other Israelis, who have already accepted the earlier waves
Whatever the combination of reasons, Israel's most-famous former
Soviet immigrant -- Natan Sharansky -- decided last year the best
way to protect the interests of these newcomers and to convince
more Jews to come to israel from the former Soviet republics, was
to start a political movement.
Sharansky and his party have succeeded in that, becoming one of the
key political powers in the new Israeli parliament. Sharansky will
almost certainly be a minister in the next Israeli government, and
he will be in the position he wanted -- able to affect policy,
particularly spending policy, toward the settlement of recent
immigrants and the effort to bring more.
The halls of Israel's parliament building will be a much different
setting from the Soviet prison Sharansky was in just 10 years ago.
But he sees the transition in a different way. He says that in his
mind he has not gone from prisoner to leader, but rather from
hero to "dirty politician." But he says he is willing if he can
use his new political platform to bring more former Soviet Jews to
Israel and help settle the ones who are already here.
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