Magazine article The Middle East

Rabin's Legacy

Magazine article The Middle East

Rabin's Legacy

Article excerpt

At the ballot box in January, the Palestinians of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem delivered a resounding "yes" vote in favour of the peace process. Unfazed by recent assassinations presumably, but not officially, by the Israeli secret services of the key terrorist masterminds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Palestinians put their new found electoral power to good effect. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat received an overwhelming vote which installed him as his people's first democratically elected leader. The new council, meanwhile, is generally supportive, of the Oslo I and Oslo II deals, but is not totally subservient to Arafat.

Now, it is the turn of the Israeli people to decide, following the recent announcement by Prime Minister Shimon Peres that he wishes to call an early election. The actual date - which will be some time in late May or early June, has to be agreed upon by the country's main parties, but the choice is clear. Will Israel's electorate allow Peres to carry the torch of peace, which passed to him following the tragic assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, or will voters turn back to the Likud, and its leader Bibi Netanyahu, thereby signalling its rejection of peace?

The question of whether or not to call an early election has troubled Peres for some months. Many of his Labour Party colleagues have been urging him to harness the wave of sympathy triggered by Rabin's death and seek a fresh mandate from the people. Peres, wary of being portrayed as an opportunist, at first attempted to make progress in the negotiations with Syria, before the polls which were scheduled for the autumn. Given the lack of progress in the talks with Damascus, Peres finally relented on February 12, informing President Weizman of his decision.

For the first time in this election, Israelis will be voting directly for their new prime minister, as well as for members of parliament. …

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