THE ASSASSIN'S hand holding the 9mm Baretta that killed Israeli
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is not strong enough to staunch the
making of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
That's the predominant view among many analysts of the Middle
East, reinforced for them late Sunday as Israelis mourned Rabin in
sorrow that Israel's internal politics had grown so violent.
But at least one analyst - Michael Hudson of the Georgetown
University Center for Contemporary Arab Studies - contradicted the
"I think it's a serious a blow to the peace process," said
Hudson, who suggested that the negotiations with the Palestinians
"My guess is that there will be a period of coming together
around the funeral of Rabin," he said, "but I don't know if that
sort of unity-in-crisis spirit will last very long."
One complicated political element is the successor government
to Rabin's. His foreign minister, now acting Prime Minister Shimon
Peres - considered, not always flatteringly, to be the father of
the peace process - is likely to be asked to try to form a
temporary government until the next Israeli elections. The Labor
Party of Peres and Rabin holds a one-seat majority in the Knesset,
and the opposition Likud party is opposed to the peace negotiations.
Peres could strike decisively against the opposition by
calling for early elections.
"If the election were held now, a lot of people would come out
as simply a show of support for the slain leader," said Herbert C.
Kelman, a Middle East scholar from Harvard University who is
visiting Israel. "The thing to watch now is whether there is going
to be some kind of national stock-taking on how things were allowed
to go this far."
In recent months, Israeli politics have become uncommonly ugly,
with Rabin labeled as a "traitor" and as a "Nazi" by some
right-wing groups allied with Jewish settlers in territory that
would come under Palestinian control in a peace settlement.
But Hudson of Georgetown predicted that once the mourning
period was over, "the deep divisions that already exist in Israeli
society will reappear in deeper form."
Peres, Hudson noted, does not have Rabin's stature and is
suspect among even many centrist Israelis for his pacifist outlook.
The continuing confusion in Israeli politics and Peres'
insecurity as a leader could impair other initiatives, such as
negotiations with Syria.
Looking at deeply divided Israel and an uncertain leadership,
said Hudson, the Syrian leadership could decide they "don't want to
get involved with these people."
But other analysts paint a less pessimistic picture.
"I think Rabin's successor will move more quickly because
there's really no way back," said Robert G. Neumann, senior
advisor on the Middle East for the Center for International and
Strategic Studies in Washington. …