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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Israeli press appraises surprise victor
Israeli Prime Minister Barak shakes hands with new President Katsav
A crucial handshake
The main concerns of Israeli newspapers commenting on the election of the Likud's Moshe Katsav as president were whether the right man got the job, and the implications for Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Globes saw the right-winger's victory as a "searing, possibly fatal defeat" for Mr Barak.


Today, ours is a badly weakened prime minister

Globes newspaper

"It is he who, under such circumstances, is supposed to deliver the goods for his and his party's candidate," the paper said in an editorial.

"Barak did not deliver the goods because he has, by now, no goods to deliver."

Elections

"Today, ours is a badly weakened prime minister... There may be nothing for it but for him to go to elections, and have the people choose between two clearly-defined alternatives: either peace with the Palestinians on the basis of matters agreed at Camp David, or the abandoning of the peace process, with all the attendant implications of such a choice."

Israeli Prime Minister Barak in the Knesset
No goods to deliver
The Jerusalem Post concentrated on Iranian-born Mr Katsav himself, a virtual unknown outside the country. It suggests that, for all the political nature of the Knesset vote, he could well prove to be the better candidate.

"The choice between Moshe Katsav and Shimon Peres was not just about two men badly mismatched in stature, but between different visions of the presidency," it said.

Whereas Mr Peres was a bigger player on the international stage, the paper said, Mr Katsav was more suited to the president's role as a unifier of Israeli society.

"A great attraction of Katsav was the credibility of his commitment, despite being a career politician, to depoliticize the presidency," the paper went on.

Politics of division

As an example, it suggested that one of his first innovations should be to meet the families of road accident victims, to push for more effective safety measures.

He should also, it said, meet "every political faction and warn them that he will speak out against the politics of division, wherever he finds it".

Mr Katsav, the paper concluded, "has the potential not only to achieve but to raise the stature of the high office he has been chosen to hold. His success will be that of all of us, and we wish him well".

The liberal paper Haaretz also had praise for Mr Katsav, saying he displayed "a high level of both political flexibility and persuasive skills" in securing his victory.

Presidential hopeful Peres in the Knesset
Lost again
"It is to be hoped that he will know how to effectively symbolize and represent the State of Israel and its fragmented society with integrity, courage and graciousness," it said.

"He has also declared that he would no longer interfere in political or diplomatic matters and that he would devote his energies to Israel's fragmented society."

"This declaration of principles is decidedly good news, and it is to be hoped that this will be the spirit that will be dispensed from the presidential mansion in Jerusalem over the next seven years."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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