Israel's Bebe needs to keep the peace

by Funke Farinde

Bebe won -- Benjamin Netanyahu, that is. Political analysts predicted the proximity of the race, but the results are unprecedented. This election was a referendum on the peace agreement and the manner in which Israel voters denied the incoming prime minister a mandate.

Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned in opposition of the Peres' administration's handling of the peace agreement. Yet Bebe, too, is moving toward the middle. Several factors underlie the moderate approach the new government is now embracing.

First, the United States and Israel have a very close working relationship. President Clinton made no secret of his preference of a Shimon Peres victory. With the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Clinton administration stated it would support any Israeli prime minister who advocates peace.

The success of Israeli prime ministers usually hinges on their ability to nurture this bond. Second, America gives Israel $3 billion annually. The amount Tel Aviv receives from Washington is a gesture of support. Israel also receives military aid from the United States -- money it desperately needs to maintain its formidability in a sometimes hostile environment.

Third, Israel runs a trade deficit of $10 billion each year. Israel desperately needs trade with the world to offset this imbalance. The United States is one of Israel's main trading partners. Perhaps it is paramount then, that Israel make some peace attempts to retain an auspicious trade relation with the United States.

Meanwhile, the Likud administration is intransigent in granting a Palestinian autonomous state -- a point reiterated by Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington and a Netanyahu adviser.

Additionally, it is ludicrous for the new Israeli prime minister to propose increasing Jewish settlement on the West Bank. Such a step will decimate progress accomplished thus far, and the U.S. government has voiced its opposition.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher asked Arab leaders not to make judgments beforehand. His advice is valid. Israel cannot regress to a period when it was belligerent toward its neighbors.

Will there be differences between Bebe's administration and the former? Of course. But Israel has more to gain by continuing the peace process.

Farinde is a freshman pre-pharmacy major.

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