Albawaba.com – Amman
Palestinian political analyst Wadee Nassar said that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is the only guarantee for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to win the upcoming Israeli premiership elections, where he will have to run against Likud leader Ariel Sharon, following the withdrawal of former premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s from the race for the post.
Nassar said that former PM Shimon Peres’s chances in the elections are weak; nevertheless, his candidacy will harm his Labor party colleague the current Israeli PM Ehud Barak.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: How do you explain Netanyahu’s withdrawal from the race for premiership despite the fact that the Knesset has passed the Bibi Bill, which allows Netanyahu to run for elections?
A: Netanyahu’s withdrawal from the race for the prime minister’s post and, necessarily, the Likud’s leadership came because he was basically looking for the dissolution of the already split Knesset, where at least 58 members are not guaranteed to back him when he becomes head of the government, and will be a source of trouble to him.
Q: Do you think the elections battle will end in Barak’s favor?
A: In fact, Barak is faced with a fierce competition, but the picture will be clearer in two days if Peres nominates himself for the post, a matter which will add to the pressure endured by Barak who is already subject to bitter criticism in the Arab community and among the Israeli leftists. In this case, Sharon’s chances will be much stronger.
Q: Do you think Peres is serious about his nomination?
A: He is now holding some contacts to probe the size of support he can get. He is preferred to Barak by the Arab MKs and Leftists. I think that Peres’s candidacy will lead to second round in the elections.
Q: Will the second round be Peres versus Sharon in that case?
A: It is a far possibility. But the whole matter is to a great extent dpendent on the efforts to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. If Barak’s team reaches this agreement, the Arabs and the leftists will vote for Barak.
Q: Do you think the Palestinians will agree to a deal with Barak?
A: It is up to Barak himself. The Palestinians want certain substantial changes on the ground, especially regarding Jerusalem and the holy sites. I believe Barak’s consulting team are pushing into that direction. The question is, however, is whether or not Barak has the political courage to take such a step ahead of the elections. Anyway, the Palestinians have their doubts about Barak’s ability to make the Knesset pass the agreement.
Q: What are the obstacles facing Peres?
A: First, he does not have the backing of the Labor Party, which supports Barak, and yet this is not the main obstacle. The real problem for Peres is his image in Israel as a loser. Peres has not been able to win all five election battles.
Q: There are 20 Arab and Merez Knesset members. Will they all push for Peres’s candidacy? If not? Will the Arabs keep talking with Merez to nominate a third candidate besides Barak and Sharon?
A: No doubt that the Arab MKs and Merez party hold hard feelings against Barak, and they do want Peres. But if a peace deal is hammered, many from both sides will vote for Barak.
Q: Some analysts say that Netanyahu is trying through his withdrawal to preserve his credibility. They say that he does not expect the parliament to stay for more than a year. Is that correct in your point of view?
A: I think the Knesset will not be dissolved before a year, and I do not believe it will survive to the end of its term in 2003. That is because the current composition of the Knesset is unstable. The left and right camps have roughly the same number of deputies, therefore Shas has the final say over there. The Knesset is under the mercy of [Shas spiritual leader] Rabbi Ofadi Youssef.
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