Despite the media, it's a good thing Winner's hard line better than fake 'peace process'

The Election Of Benjamin Netanyahu

June 09, 1996|By Bill Thompson

PRESIDENT CLINTON didn't like it. The liberal media in America and around the world didn't like it. Even George Bush's onetime secretary of state, Jim Baker, didn't like it.

It must be good: the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel. Netanyahu won by the slimmest of margins over incumbent Israeli leader Shimon Peres, but he won. His victory is the best that could have happened, for Israel and for the world.

But you wouldn't know that if you formed your opinions on the basis of the malarkey emanating from the White House and the liberal media. According to that biased and shortsighted view, Netanyahu is a dangerous "right-wing" troublemaker who is determined to abort the so-called peace process in the Middle East.

It's easy to see why Netanyahu's victory was viewed as a setback by the Clinton crowd. For one, Clinton had virtually endorsed Peres, violating an unwritten but long-followed rule against American presidents involving themselves in Israeli elections. It must have been embarrassing for Clinton to watch Israeli voters reject his preferred candidate.

Worse, Clinton now has to do business with the candidate he opposed, which further complicates the sometimes volatile atmosphere that defines relations between the United States and Israel.

As for the liberal media, well, they are always depressed when a democratic nation such as Israel chooses to defend itself against aggression rather than meekly agree to peace at any price.

Make no mistake about it: This Israeli-Arab "peace process" that has been the centerpiece of Clinton's foreign policy is a sham, a sellout guaranteed to jeopardize Israel's security while creating a peace that will prove to be temporary at best.

Netanyahu has consistently opposed the one-sided nature of a process that buys peace at the cost of Israeli land, Israeli safety and Israeli self-respect.

Israel is the best friend that America has in this hostile world; the United States should be helping Israel to remain strong and free, not pushing the Israelis to wager their long-term security for the short-term prize of meaningless peace treaties with neighbors who are sworn to pursue Israel's destruction.

Clinton's decision to take sides in the Israeli election was irresponsible and stupid, but you can understand his point of view. He probably believes it is good policy for the United States to pressure Israel to "take risks for peace," as he puts it.

In a somewhat less noble vein, Clinton assumed that a continuation of current policies in the Middle East would help his re-election effort by casting him as a peacemaker in a region that has too often been ripped apart by war.

The media, however, have no excuse for their bias. They are supposed to report the news, not root for candidates and bemoan election results.

But it's so transparent.

On television, the correspondents could barely contain their despair as they reported Netanyahu's upset victory. In print, newspapers and wire services repeatedly referred to Netanyahu in negative terms, painting the bleakest possible picture of the new prime minister's leadership potential.

All this because Netanyahu says he won't sell out his people in pursuit of a peace that has now been shown to be more compelling to the United States and other outsiders than to the majority of Israelis.

Netanyahu has been criticized for making fear an issue in the Israeli campaign. But fear was an issue.

Israelis are fearful, justifiably, of organized terrorists such as the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah and of neighboring countries that have time and time again demonstrated their hatred of Israel and their contempt for the concept of peace.

In the long run -- the disappointment of Clinton and the media notwithstanding -- Netanyahu's hard-line philosophy could lead to a far more enduring peace in the Middle East by ensuring that Israel's security is not compromised.

That's what the voters seemed to think, anyway.

Bill Thompson is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. This article was distributed by New York Times Special Features. 1996 Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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