June 6, 1996 in Nation/World

Jews Wanted Tough Approach To Talks, Consul General Says

By The Spokesman-Review

Jews didn’t think incumbent Prime Minister Shimon Peres would be a tough enough negotiator for peace, so they elected Benjamin Netanyahu, according to an analysis by the San Francisco-based consul general of Israel.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review editorial board Wednesday, Nimrod Barkan noted that Peres won only about 45 percent of the Jewish vote in Israel, compared with Netanyahu’s 55 percent.

“They voted their national security interests for prime minister,” Barkan said.

Recent Russian immigrants to Israel, for example, wanted much tougher negotiations with the Palestinians.

And while the estimated 450,000 Arab voters in Israel largely supported Peres and his land-for-peace negotiations, that support wasn’t enough to overcome security concerns that had grown in the minds of many Jewish voters since a series of terrorist bombings began in February.

“Voters did not reject peace, they rejected the peace process of Prime Minister Peres. They did not trust Peres to lead them into the final steps of the peace process,” Barkan theorized.

Barkan said Israelis fear more terrorism and wanted a stronger commitment to fighting back against terrorism.

Still, Barkan noted that Netanyahu began re-pos itioning himself in the last weeks of the campaign, demonstrating a willingness to continue peace talks with the Palestinians and others in the Middle East.

Barkan said Netanyahu’s new-found commitment to finding a lasting peace - but doing it from a tougher negotiating position of slowing down a transfer of land and power to Palestinians - was a key to his election.

In the recent past, Netanyahu had been a critic of the peace process.

Barkan predicted Netanyahu will outline his support of a peace agreement with Israel’s neighbors when the prime minister visits the United States later this month.

, DataTimes

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