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February 23, 1996 - Image 50

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-02-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

How Much
Has Changed?

With early elections in May, Yitzhak Rabin will
remain the dominant figure of Israel's political stage.

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BEARS & ANIMALS

wo noteworthy and seem-
ingly unconnected events
occurred in Israel just days
before Prime Minister Shi-
mon Peres formally announced
early this week that the elections
will be moved up to the end of
May. Both say much about where
this country has come in recent
months and where it's heading.
The first was a small demon-
stration in downtown Jerusalem
by Yigal Amir's family and sup-
porters. They were protesting the
conditions under which he was
being held. Although the protest
included signs declaring "Yigal
Amir is not a murderer," most
Jerusalemites walked calmly
past and didn't react. Police sta-
tioned nearby in the event of an
uproar weren't needed.
Thus, the "silent majority" that
had beat its breast after Yitzhak
Rabin's assassination for not corn-
ing to his defense during the
months of incitement against
him, had apparently reverted to
type.
At about the same time, the
Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace
Research at Tel Aviv Universi-
ty published its latest "Peace In-
dex," a monthly poll charting
attitudes toward the peace
process. It showed that in three
months after Mr. Rabin's mur-
der, the "Overall Peace Index"
had dropped to about 60 percent
(from 73 percent just after the as-
sassination), and that support for
Prime Minister Shimon Peres
had fallen from about 57 percent
in early November to 46 percent
in late January. At the same
time, backing for Likud Chair-

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man Binyamin Netanyahu rose
from 24.5 percent to about 35 per-
cent.
The trend led the poll's spon-
sors to conclude that "the sharp
rise in support for the peace
process immediately after the as-
sassination was a transient ex-
pression of the general shock"
and "did not reflect a substantive
change in the views held by the
Israeli-Jewish public." The Jan-
uary Index, in fact, showed "a vir-
tual return to the prevailing
pattern of forces ... before Rabin's
assassination."
Was the profound trauma ex-
perienced by Israeli society no
more than an emotional hiccup?
Not necessarily, say some ex-
perts.
"The trauma still exists, and
Israel's has not returned to 'busi-
ness as usual,' " reflects Dr. Yariv
Ben-Eliezer, a consultant and lec-
turer on communications in-
volved in earlier elections
campaigns. "People are reluctant
to talk about Yigal Amir, as
though they would prefer to re-
press the entire issue."
Yet Mr. Ben-Eliezer also char-
acterizes Israel as "a resilient and
opportunistic society" in which
the political rivals will find it dif-
ficult not to use the late prime
minister for their own political
ends.
Mr. Peres himself set the stage
for this strategy. He opened the
news conference announcing ear-
ly elections with reminiscences
of Mr. Rabin's last minutes at the
Nov. 4 peace rally and his last
sight of the martyred leader.
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WERE FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE

Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin at a session of Knesset.

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