Israel's voters went beyond predictions in throwing out the Likud government and putting Labor in charge. In fact, with some 35 percent of the vote and 45 of the 120 Knesset seats, Yitzhak Rabin's Labor Party cannot have everything its own way. It must make a coalition, first with the Meretz bloc which is more dovish than Labor, then with at least one other small party. But the purpose of the voters is clear: to negotiate more flexibly and earnestly for peace with the Palestinians and Arab states than outgoing Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was willing to do.
General Rabin is no pushover. He was the army chief of staff when Israel overran the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967. He was the National Unity government's defense minister in 1987-8, serving under Mr. Shamir, who ordered severe repression of the Palestinian uprising. He ousted Shimon Peres from leadership of the Labor Party by being more hawkish. But he wants to trade land for peace (some land, anyway), he wants to get Palestinian autonomy up and running, he wants to slow down if not end Jewish settlements on the West Bank. And that appears to be why a critical segment of the Israeli electorate shifted from Likud to Labor.