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The Netanyahu government & the Israeli-Arab peace process

Author(s): Joseph Alpher
Date: 20 November 1997

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The agreement on redeployment from Hebron and further areas of the West Bank reached on 15 January 1997 represented acknowledgment by Israel's new prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, of the realities of the Israeli-Arab peace-making process as well as of the pressures of American power. It rescued Israel, at least for the time being, from a deteriorating international position.

Netanyahu took office without a coherent strategy for peace and brought with him preoccupations with ideology and hasbara-public diplomacy-that worked to the detriment of articulating and conducting clear policies. Yet the past year or so has witnessed a dramatic evolution of attitudes on the Israeli right, led by Netanyahu himself, towards the fundamental components of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Hebron agreement has shown that some 75 per cent of Israel's citizens are prepared to support a prime minister who accepts far-reaching territorial compromise and a highly contrained Palestinian state in return for peace and security. Were this state of affairs to come about, the great divide over the fate of the 'Land of Israel' that has characterized Israeli politics since 1967 would be radically narrowed. The Israeli right can deliver this public better than the left-if it has a clear peace strategy and the political will.

israel politics peaceprocess