THE WOUNDS caused by Benjamin Netanyahu's three years in the prime minister's office will not heal easily. Israeli society is thirstier than ever before for a credible, sober and moderate leadership that will work to repair the rifts and bring back the balance between the public's various groups and sectors under a broad umbrella of basic agreements. Clearly, a large portion of the public understands this and voted in this spirit. Even if the assumption that there is a draw between the right and left- wing camps is true, it would appear that the desire to unseat Netanyahu and to diffuse tensions has given hope to the rise of a fit leadership.
THERE WILL be no honeymoon for Barak. He will have to decide almost immediately if he should stop the construction of the Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. But ultimately the fate of the Wye River land-for-security accords will lie in the hands of Barak's choice of coalition partners. A coalition government stacked with conservatives will probably mean another long round of fruitless negotiations. And with Arafat's health failing, the Palestinians' patience may soon run out. The night Barak was confirmed winner, thousands of Israelis celebrated in the square where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. They heralded the dawn of a new Israel. The next months of Barak's reign, however, will determine whether the Palestinians, too, have reason to celebrate, and whether the music is indeed better.
THE VICTORY of Barak in the Israeli election has yielded predictable reactions from Arab neighbours and the United States. But it is interesting that the optimistic noises emanating from Washington and some other Western capitals are not echoed in the Arab centres. There is no difference between Barak and Netanyahu on a Greater Israel. What distinguishes them is the size of a Greater Israel and the manner of achieving this objective. It is as well that Palestinian leaders realise that Barak will be a tougher negotiator than Netanyahu. The Israelis are acting on the premise that beggars cannot be choosers - Palestinians will have to accept what is on offer because the mightiest nation on earth is on Israel's side.
Turkey Daily News
POLITICAL GROUPS of each country emit certain indications about the social structure of that country. Israel, where Barak recently won the elections, is a democracy in which, until now, all the administrators who assumed power were intellectuals with a military background. The Israeli community could only bear an outsider such as Netanyahu for four years. Prime Minister Elect Barak is a soldier by profession who assumed positions as high as the chief of staff in that country. It is expected that Barak, who spent all his life fighting the Palestinians, will promote the peace process, which sustained great damage during the tenure of Netanyahu, who was a diplomat by profession.
A VICTORY for Barak has proved that the majority of Israelis were not prepared to believe Netanyahu's empty slogans, and that futile cliches on peace and security are no longer so tempting. Peace is a vital element of security and to attain peace, compromise must be reached. There can be no peace without compromise and without peace there will never be real security. (Yossi Beilin)
The Daily Star
A BARAK premiership gives the Americans the opportunity to re-enter the peace arena. One of Netanyahu's more annoying talents as far as Washington was concerned was his ability to manipulate internal US politics and politicians more effectively at times than President Clinton could. That is unlikely to be the case with Barak. Those oft-quoted words - "even-handed US policy" - need to be converted into reality if we are to see genuine peace in our time.
BARAK, I hope that you will use the mandate given to you by the majority of Israelis to rethink the Israeli position in regards to Palestine. You have the power to rewrite the history of the region so that it will not be a continuation of the worn-out policies that will not work. The peoples of the region - Israelis, Egyptians, Palestinians as well as Lebanese and Syrians - yearn for true, just and lasting peace. Your Arab neighbours plead that you give peace a chance, no matter what the price is. (Daoud Kuttab)
International comment following Ehud Barak's landslide victory over Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's general electionsReuse content