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October 28, 1988 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-28

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On the eve of Israel's elections, it appears that the turmoil
of the intifada has helped lead to another political
deadlock between Labor and Likud


Israel Correspondent

ho would have imagined
that the unnatural alliance
between Labor and Likud —
the two arch-rivals of Israeli
politics — would have run
its four-year course?
When the the deadlocked 1984
elktion compelled the two major
political blocs to form a national uni-
ty coalition, pundits confidently
predicted that the two-headed
monster would be aborted well before
November 1988. Indeed, most
doubted that government would live
through the rotation of party leaders
midway through its life.
This cliff-hanger government not
only survived to the bitter end, but
now, as Israelis prepare to go to the
polls on Nov. 1, the Likud Party of
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and
the Labor Party of Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres are being compelled to
contemplate the unthinkable: a
repeat of the deadlock that will force
them back into their unhappy em-
This year's election, coming in the
midst of the Palestinian uprising, has
thrown the spotlight onto one of the
toughest, most intractable problems
to confront Israel since its establish-
ment in 1948 — what to do about the
occupied territories and the Arab
Not surprisingly — and not with-
out justification — the coming elec-
tion is being touted as "the most
critical in the history of the state."
At the same time, though, the
campaign has been effectively
neutered by the apparent decision of
both parties to avoid any real discus-
sion of the subject.
With no end in sight to the 11-
month-old intifada, neither of Israel's
major political blocs appears confi-
dent that their diametrically oppos-
ed remedies for the problem is win-
nable at the polls. Neither has been
bold enough to ask the voters to judge
them on their performance so far or

Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir began active campaigning in August.

on their proposed solutions to the pro-
The reasons are not hard to find.
The intifada is an embarrassment to
both Labor and Likud; neither anti-
cipated the spontaneous outburst,
both are equally involved in trying to
contain it, and neither can offer the
voters a quick end to the impasse.
Peres, who champions a policy of
territorial compromise with the
Arabs and peace negotiations with a
joint Jordanian-Palestinian dele-
gation, had the rug pulled from under
him by King Hussein of Jordan this
summer when the monarch cut his
links with the West Bank and Gaza
Shamir, on the other hand, is a
champion of the old Camp David
autonomy proposals — a non-starter
with the Arabs — and rejects any no-
tion of abandoning control of any part
of the biblically promised Land of
Whatever policies they pursue,
however, at the end of the day both
parties — which agree that there can
be no negotiations with the PLO —

are locked into a stalemate with the
Palestinians, who continue to insist
that the PLO is their sole legitimate
Moreover, the embarrassing si-
lence from Israel's two major blocs is
likely to be highlighted even further
later this month, just before the elec-
tions, when the Palestine National
Council — the Palestinian "parlia-
ment" — is scheduled to meet in
In an attempt to capitalize on the
intifada — and to win diplomatic
points with the incoming administra-
tion in Washington — the Pales-
tinians are expected to adopt their
most conciliatory position since the
PLO was founded in 1964: an implicit
recognition of Israel's right to exist.
Never mind that this will be coun-
ter-balanced by the declaration of an
independent Palestinian state and by
the creation of a provisional Palesti-
nian government. The pressure will
be on Israel to respond, and there is
unlikely to be a response.
True, there are other serious
issues to be debated between the

Labor and Likud parties as they
approach the election; there are, for
example, significant differences on
social and economic affairs. But on
the subject of the intifada — the cen-
tral, single issue that concentrates
the minds of Israelis — the difference
between Labor and Likud has been
reduced to style rather than
substance. And with most Israelis ap-
proving of the harsh measures taken
in an effort to quell the uprising, it ap-
pears that more voters may opt for the
hard-line position of Likud.
Whether or not Likud will receive
enough votes, though, to form a coali-
tion without Labor is problematic.
Some analysts predict that Likud
may be able to put together the nar-
rowest of majorities (61 of the
Knesset's 120 seats) by bringing in
the religious parties and several of
the small, more radical right-wing
parties; others suggest that Likud
and Labor are destined to form
another unity government and are
not as pessimistic about the prospect
as they would have us believe.
In any event, Israeli voters do not
find much to choose between the per-
sonalities of the leading contenders
for power.
Shimon Peres, a relatively youth-
ful 65, enjoyed unprecedented popu-
larity during his two years as Prime
Minister (the polls awarded him an
approval rating of about 70 percent).
As Israel's leader for the first half
of the national unity government, the
Labor Party head pulled the troops
out of Lebanon and administered the
bitter medicine that was necessary to
bring down the rate of inflation (then
around 450 percent; now about 17
percent) and to pull the economy back
from the brink of catastrophe.
In addition, he cooled down the
overheated political debate following
seven turbulent years of Likud rule,
mostly under Menachem Begin.
The advantage of incumbency,
however, deserted Peres almost as
soon as he switched roles with
Shamir, his coalition partner, and left



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