Netanyahu - More Than "Peace On Paper" For Israelis This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Peace on paper." For years, this has been what the Israeli people have been hearing from their elected Prime Ministers. However, now with the election of 46-year-old Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a new faith has been instilled in the nation's willingness to defend itself. Israelis have elected a man who will no longer see his nation preyed upon by enemy Arab states. This appears to be what Israelis believe they need and have been missing with the Labor Administration of Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres. A majority of Israelis supported Prime Minister Shimon Peres, until Peres frustrated voters with his inability to defend the nation against Arab attacks on civilian targets. Netanyahu has built confidence in his ability to bring "peace with security," and based his campaign on a vow to obtain it.

The policies of the hard-nosed Netanyahu will most likely require a slowing down of the peace process, with the ultimate goal being to obtain "peace with security" for Israel. Despite the rejoicing of millions of Israelis over the victory of Netanyahu and his concomitants, many world leaders are concerned about the strains it will put on the peace process. Since the path Netanyahu will choose for Israel is not yet concrete, a shadow of uncertainty has been cast over the future of Israeli-Arab relations.

The promises Netanyahu made during his campaign have puzzled world leaders who wonder if they are simply attempts to gain popularity. According to Netanyahu, he will negotiate with Syria, but never compromise on the Golan Heights, a strategic zone vital to the security of Israel. He will live up to the Oslo agreements with the Palestinians but at the same time create more Jewish settlements in the West Bank for the security of the nation. His policy toward the status of Jerusalem was made clear in his first public address - he stated emphatically that Jerusalem will never be divided again.

Many of Netanyahu's plans have politicians from Israel to Syria to the United States on the edge of their seats. He says he will close down Orient House, the P.L.O. headquarters located in East Jerusalem. This would be a breech of the secret addendum to the first Oslo agreement, which allows the office to continue functioning. Netanyahu also stated his plans to give Israeli security forces "complete freedom of action" to fight terrorism that has occurred in Gaza Strip and West Bank; Palestinians consider this a threat to their power. This scheme could lead to bloodshed if Arafat decides to counter the Israeli forces with the 30,000 men under his control. Yet if he takes no action, he would lose popularity, which could have a negative effect on the peace process.

Considering this, Netanyahu's victory was obviously a blow to Arafat and his Administration. While he ordered his aides not to comment on the outcome, Arafat was clearly frustrated by the defeat of Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who is generally known for his "softness." Peres and Arafat had a common interest in a hastened peace process, and their hopes for accelerated peace were all but undermined by Netanyahu's hairline victory. The Clinton Administration put much time and effort into fostering an Israeli-Syrian treaty, and, should it fall through because of Netanyahu's belligerence, the Administration could lose some of the credit and popularity that it needs for the upcoming election. Clinton was also dismayed by the strain that the outcome would put on both the peace process and Israeli-American relations. Like the Palestinian leader Arafat, Clinton had faith in Peres and the Labor government. Both leaders supported and helped Peres in his campaign. Still, Clinton's attitude is changing, and he has warned Arab nations not to prejudge Netanyahu. Arafat's reaction was similar to Clinton's, though less dramatic, as he is now "stuck between a hard-line Israeli government and a disappointed Palestinian people."

It is clear that neither Israel nor the Arab nations will allow themselves to be the other's prey. Earlier this year, Hesbola and Hamas terrorists showed their opposition to the advancing peace process by taking part in a series of suicide bus bombings, killing Israeli civilian and tourist passengers, including many women and children. Peres sought the ringleaders of these attacks by ordering a 17-day attack on Lebanon, also resulting in the deaths of civilians who were used by the terrorists as shields. The move was out of character for Peres, who, because of his softness and resigned nature, was seen by many Arabs as the "only real possibility for reconciliation with the region." Hopes for a peacetime transition were thwarted when, a day after Netanyahu's victory, Arabs exploded two remote-controlled roadside bombs, killing four Israeli soldiers. The move was a signal to the Netanyahu government saying, "We're not scared of you." This does not bode well for the peace process and Israeli-Palestinian relations in the next four years.

So, what now? Israel's new leader has confidence in himself, even if others don't. The world's eyes are on him, waiting to see if he can lead a divided party and now, nation (Netanyahu was victorious by only 29,507 votes). He has a tremendous task to attend to - pleasing both the hard-liners who want nothing less than everything, and those "peace at any price" activists who want nothing more than a feeling of security and peace of mind.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has confidence in Netanyahu as a peacemaker, but for many, this is not the question. Netanyahu wants "peace with security" for his nation. Neither he nor his nation have any use for peace on paper, the type of "peace" where we fear for the lives of our civilians and citizens who wish to ride a local bus. If that's the only peace they'll give Israel, then Netanyahu will not accept it. The new leader wants the best for his nation, and if Arab nations won't see this happen, Netanyahu will see that it does ... finally. ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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