Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arab Moderates Root for Israel's Labor Candidate ; Although Trailing in the Polls, Amram Mitzna Is Viewed as a Better Partner in Efforts to Promote Peace

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arab Moderates Root for Israel's Labor Candidate ; Although Trailing in the Polls, Amram Mitzna Is Viewed as a Better Partner in Efforts to Promote Peace

Article excerpt

It may be scant comfort to Israeli Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna, who is trailing badly in opinion polls just a week ahead of a crucial general election, but his bid to become prime minister has gained supporters across Israel's borders.

In Lebanon, the Daily Star took up his cause in a front-page editorial. "Many Israelis read the Daily Star on the Internet," the newspaper wrote Saturday. "If this newspaper can convince even a few of them to vote for Mitzna by having articulated the hope he inspires on this side of the divide, the effort will have been worth it."

In Amman and Cairo as well, Arab leaders, opinion-makers, and analysts are looking at - and, more significantly, beyond - next Tuesday's Israeli elections to ask what role moderates in the Arab world might play in boosting the Israeli left wing. While the Labor Party stands little chance of getting enough Knesset seats next week to head a new coalition government, some Arab leaders still hope it can oust Sharon's Likud Party next time around. The next election must occur within four years, but could be held sooner if the government is toppled sooner by a no-confidence vote.

In a sense, the Israeli election is seen as part of a longer- term process of possible political transformation that, along with Egyptian efforts to achieve a ceasefire declaration among Palestinian factions, could eventually help restart peace negotiations.

The hope is that Mr. Mitzna, the angular, bearded mayor of Haifa and former general who espouses renewed peace talks, can tally a sufficiently respectable showing to maintain his leadership of the Labor Party. Arab moderates would also prefer that the Labor Party does not join the Likud Party in a unity government, thus leaving Mr. Sharon with an unstable, unpopular far-right coalition that could then be toppled.

"These elections will result in hell, and after hell we can reach a peaceful shore," says Michel Edde, who served as a Lebanese minister over three decades.

"Mitzna is encouraging," Mr. Edde adds. "He is an honest man. There are many things on which I don't agree with him, but I respect him. This election is his first step. He will need two, three, or four years in opposition to become prime minister. His position is the only way for a sound settlement."

Within Israel, however, new polls are intensifying questions about Mitzna's political survival. Among an electorate that associates the Palestinian Authority above all else with terrorism, the same readiness for talks and territorial concessions that has won points abroad has not helped Mitzna at home.

The polls showed Labor tallying only 19 to 20 seats in a new Knesset, compared with 30 to 32 for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party. Labor legislators with low ranking on the Knesset list are demanding Mitzna make way for veteran leader Shimon Peres. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.