The hoopla of the 1992 political campaign has overshadowed for many Americans the recent Israeli elections and their aftermath. The ouster of the Likud government after 15 years has been described as Israel's second "political earthquake," the biggest change in the country's politics since 1977, when Likud broke the Labor Party's 29-year grip on power.
The Israeli electorate spoke loud and clear on at least one important issue in ousting Yitzhak Shamir and Likud. The public wants the peace process with the Palestinians to go forward on a faster track than Shamir was willing to move it. Sensing this, Israel's new Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Cairo and invited Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and other Arab leaders to Jerusalem for further talks. Should such visits actually take place, Rabin will have scored a political coup, as the presence of Arab leadership in Jerusalem implies their recognition of Israel.
Yet the accession of the 70-year-old Rabin may have a downside as well. His long career as head of the Israel Defense Forces in the 1967 Six Day War, as ambassador to Washington from 1968 to 1973, as prime minister in the mid-70s, and as defense minister from 1984 to 1990 leaves a well-marked track by which to anticipate his conduct.
Rabin is remembered especially as the defense minister who ordered the army to use "force, strength, and blows" to stop the Palestinian intifada and before that for proposing a cutoff of food and water to the populace of Beirut during Israel's 1982 siege there. The man is not a dove.