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Tuesday, 18 May, 1999, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Political shockwave rocks Israeli press
Wellwishers congratulate Ehud Barak
Wellwishers congratulate Ehud Barak
As the tumult of election night subsided, Israel's press began to take stock of the country's changing political climate.

Newspapers were awash with reaction and comment from columnists and analysts. There were also statements from political figures and parties jockeying for position after the victory of Labour Party leader Ehud Barak over the incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu.

Israel Elections Special Report
In its opinion column headlined "Earthquake", the National Religious Party's daily `Hatzofe' said the Israeli public had "great expectations" of Barak and wanted to see him make good on his promise to be "the prime minister of everyone".

But the paper launched a scathing attack on the "Israeli right-wing", accusing it of bringing down the Netanyahu government.

"Netanyahu fell, not because he wasn't talented enough but because the people around him, the members of the national camp, were disloyal."

The `Hatzofe' editorial ended on a downbeat note. "Yesterday's earthquake was a sad one. The more one thinks about it, the harder Ehud Barak's mission appears. We must pray he will succeed."

High drama in religious press

The Tel Aviv-based religious daily `Yated Ne'eman' invoked more dramatic imagery in its front page editorial headline, "In the Eye of the Storm".

"The God-fearing public was shocked and amazed by the election's impending results. There is deep fear in our hearts.

But even these gloomy feelings must be seen through the lens of the Torah and our faith.

"As we all know, the Torah's existence does not depend on the vicissitudes of the fortune of this or that government," `Yated Ne'eman' said. "This is merely another trial that we have to face."

Netanyahu lamented

In contrast to many Israeli commentators and opinion columnists, Me'ir Uzi'el from the independent daily `Ma'ariv' lamented the political passing of Netanyahu, and paid tribute to his legacy.

"It could have been better for all of us. It could have been a victory for Netanyahu, and Israel would have climbed to new heights.

None of us even dreamed that we were capable of achieving what we did in the last three years.

Netanyahu took control of a bleeding, frightened, country and gave back a quiet and confident country with new bank notes as good as any in the world."

Uzi'el poured scorn on Barak's promises to stand firm on Israel's security and heal the divisions in Israeli society.

"Even Barak's own voters know that all this was just a disguise to con those voters who are not left-wingers."

Future concerns

As well as reacting to the political drama in its opinion columns, the Israeli press carried extensive quotes from politicians and party heads, jubilant or otherwise.

`Ma'ariv' highlighted the poor showing of the NRP in the polls and quoted an unnamed party activist who blamed his leader.

"The man responsible for the party's failure and decline is the leader, Rabbi Yitzhaq Levi, and his future as chairman should be reconsidered.'

The paper also quoted Natan Sharansky, the leader of Yisra'el Ba'aliya, which campaigns for immigrants' rights.

Sharansky said his was the only centre party able to provide the basis for a government of national unity.

"We are the only centre party that supported neither the left nor the right, despite all the pressures. When I think of the future government, I see us as the only centre force capable of being the bridge and the foundation on which a national unity government can be built. That should be our goal."

The mass-circulation `Yedi'ot Aharonot' spelt out the prospects for the Meretz alliance - "a natural partner in the Barak government".

"We are positive that Meretz will participate in Baraq's government. We don't have to wait for a phone call," the paper quoted party activists as saying.

See also:

15 Jul 99 | Israel elections
18 May 99 | Monitoring
18 May 99 | Middle East
11 Nov 99 | Israel elections
18 May 99 | Middle East
18 May 99 | Monitoring
18 May 99 | Middle East
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