A Stark Choice for Israel

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 13, 1996 | Go to article overview

A Stark Choice for Israel


The May election called by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres will have elements of drama that even the finest playwright could envy. The coming campaign between Mr. Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition Likud Party, will play out in the wake of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in November. Add to that shock the continuing progress of the peace process with the Palestinians, slow-moving talks with Syria and the symbolic generational split between Mr. Peres, age 72, and Mr. Netanyahu, 46. The dramatic campaign will answer important questions about Israel's future.

Delegates to the annual meeting of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council in St. Louis got a preview of the coming campaign on Sunday. Foreign Minister Ehud Barak told the session that Israel must maintain a position of strength if it hopes to deal successfully with the 2.5 million Palestinians within its borders. Balancing the need for security with the need to let the Palestinians participate in Israeli democracy will not be easy. Zalman Shoval, a Likud member who spoke to the meeting via long-distance telephone, raised the specter of Mr. Peres' undermining that security by making too many concessions in the peace talks.

The balloting originally was set for Oct. 29, but Mr. Peres announced Sunday he would dissolve the Knesset and move the voting up. For the first time, Israelis will vote directly for prime minister.

When Mr. …

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