PALESTINIANS are divided over how to view the change of power in
Israel. The most hard-line view is held by the Islamic Resistance
Movement, Hamas, which is not a member of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO). Hamas rejects any peace talks with Israel. It
strongly opposes the peaceful approach the PLO has taken toward
Hamas, however, represents only a small fraction of the
Palestinian people - about the same percentage as the portion of
Jewish people that supported the extremist Zionist Irgun
organization before the establishment of Israel in 1948.
The PLO itself has two divergent views of the new Israeli
government. The radical factions believe that the change in Israel
is limited to the "names of politicians" and won't affect policies.
They point out that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has taken the
unusual step of reserving the Cabinet post of defense minister for
himself. In their eyes, this is a strong message to the
Palestinians that his iron fist has not softened. They predict that
Mr. Rabin will put every effort into crushing the Palestinian
intifadah, and then focus on revitalizing the "Jordanian option."
The moderate leaders of the PLO view the return of the Labor
Party differently. In a recent interview with CNN, Yasser Arafat
said that "the results of the Israeli elections show that the
Israeli masses voted for peace rather than war." Mr. Arafat and
like-minded Palestinians believe that Labor tends to be more
pragmatic than Likud when it comes to Israel's relations with the
international community, especially the United States, but just as
ideological when it comes to Palestinian self-determination and
Palestinians, in general, view their history with Israel as the
history of Labor Party policies, which includes the first
settlements and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East
Nonetheless, many see Rabin's coalition as promising. They feel
that if the new prime minister is serious about making peace, he
may be best able to win over the Israeli public because of his
tough credentials. Labor is coming to power in a totally different
world internationally, regionally, and locally than when it last
governed 15 years ago. The Soviet Union and Eastern bloc no longer
exist. China, Russia, most of Africa, and India have recognized
Israel's right to exist. Israel has a peace treaty with Egypt.
Zionism, Israel's founding ideology, is no longer considered racism
by the United Nations General Assembly.
The intifadah cost Israel politically, economically, and morally
because of the harsh policies she has used against it. Iraq,
Israel's strongest enemy, was militarily destroyed in the Gulf war.
The PLO has given up its goal of total liberation of Palestine from
the "Zionist entity." In 1988, the PLO recognized Israel's right to
exist and declared an independent state in the occupied territories. …