- WASHINGTON (AFP) - The likely victory of Ehud Barak in Israeli elections
Monday would be a much-needed boost to President Bill Clinton's quest for
Mideast peace, analysts here said.
- US officials had no comment early Monday,
but there was little doubt a Barak victory would be greeted favorably by
the US administration.
- "The polls are still open so I will
not comment on any part of it," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
said as the Labor leader appeared headed for a landslide over incumbent
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- "But," added Albright, "we
want to see a comprehensive peace process move forward."
- That's code for "Bring on Barak!"
here in Washington, which has been frustrated by Netanyahu's intransigence
in the stalled peace talks, according to American University expert Laura
- "A Barak victory will open the door
again for movement in the peace process which will always make the United
States happy," said Drake.
- "Netanyahu was really against the
peace process at all. There was no flexibility, he just wanted to stop
the train from moving completely," she said.
- Barak, on the other hand, wants to wrap
up negotiations with the Palestinians within a year, open talks with the
Syrians, pull out of Lebanon and may even consider a Palestinian state.
- And that, the White House believes, is
just the recipe for success in the Middle East so anxiously sought by Clinton,
whose peacemaker legacy is suffering from the Kosovo catastrophe.
- "It's not personal," said Drake.
- "It's just that the US interest
is having the Arabs and Israelis work things out and anyone who prevents
that -- if an Israeli leader is being what the US sees as obstinate --
then the working relations on a day to day basis are going to be tense,"
- Clinton was visibly furious at Netanyahu
last year during the Wye River negotiations, when the right-wing prime
minister nearly backed out of a deal minutes before the signing ceremony
demanding the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.
- In January, Netanyahu chided Barak for
refusing to sign an appeal to Clinton on the release.
- And three of Clinton's political advisors
-- including James Carville -- are working for Barak and have been credited
with focussing his campaign with military precision.
- The White House, of course, insists the
advisors are free agents and have no affiliation with the US administration.
- "These people need to make a living
and they're free to do so," said spokesman Mike Hammer, adding "no
way" would he comment on the likely outcome of the Israeli election.
- Clinton is anxious to stay out of this
one after his implicit endorsement of Shimon Peres in 1996 met with indignation
by Israeli voters and may have contributed to his defeat.
- But in addition to his flexibility in
the Mideast negotiations, Barak sees Clinton's idol, slain prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin, as a mentor.
- And though he is considered more accommodating
than Netanyahu, the military man who sneaked into Lebanon to assassinate
three senior PLO officials in 1973, is tough enough to satisfy the huge
- "I wouldn't say that he is a dove,
but he is in a way a successor to Yitzhak Rabin and nobody ever called
him a dove either," said Drake.