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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Labor Real Peacemaker In Mideast




If the historic Mideast peace deal that was struck last week succeeds, the real heroes will be not Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor even U.S. President Bill Clinton.


The greatest praise is due to the Israeli Labor Party, the main opposition, which has pledged to put aside its partisan differences and support the Netanyahu government in the interests of peace.


To do this involves forgetting a personal animus against Netanyahu and his Likud party that goes back a long way. Netanyahu has been a bitter enemy of any peace-for-land deal with the Palestinians. His earlier poisonous remarks on the peace deal contributed to the atmosphere of hate that led a Jewish radical to murder Yitzhak Rabin, the Labor leader who concluded the 1993 Oslo agreements that laid the foundations for a lasting peace between Arabs and Jews.


Since his election in the wake of the murder, Netanyahu has done all he could to welch on that deal. His justification for refusing to give up land in exchange for peace has been fears for Israeli security.


It is true that Israelis are under threat from terrorism but Netanyahu's arguments ignored the equally arbitrary threat faced by Palestinians from racist Jewish fanatics. Their outrages more or less counterbalance those of their Arab counterparts.


The whole basis for a land-for-peace deal is that it will cut the ground out from under the feet of the radicals. The extremists in the Hamas movement owe their support to the manifest failure of more moderate forces to achieve a fair deal for the Palestinians. Arafat will be strengthened by a deal.


There is a parallel with peace talks in South Africa, where white extremists used alleged atrocities committed by blacks as a justification for delaying talks. A breakthrough was only achieved by taking a risk and making real concessions for a long-term peace.


Under pressure from his own army and the United States, Netanyahu has decided to make concessions. But he knows that he will face an immediate revolt from within his coalition government by Jewish conservative hard-liners.


The Labor party could allow the Netanyahu government to fall. But with it would fall the peace process. Instead, reluctantly, the Labor government has pledged to back its sworn enemy f so long as he pursues the path of peace.


This is an act of rare political magnanimity that deserves recognition. It remains to be seen, however, whether Netanyahu and Arafat can take the opportunity.