For new prime minister, task is to unite all sides

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Benjamin Netanyahu's victory in the Israeli elections indicates that a solid 50 percent of the Israeli electorate and a significant majority of Jews in the Jewish state rejected Prime Minister Shimon Peres and elements of his peace process. While the tally is extremely close, Peres lost the Jewish vote by 10 percentage points — a decisive victory for Netanyahu.

What makes the upset extraordinary is the unprecedented support Peres received from the international community, including a virtual endorsement from President Bill Clinton. Despite all that, Israelis spurned Peres, believing that his peace was without security.

There are those who have suggested that Netanyahu's success will bring the peace process to a grinding halt. Such concerns are reminiscent of when Menachem Begin became prime minister. Many Middle East analysts suggested that Arab-Israeli relations would be irreparably severed, but in the end it was Begin who made the peace with Egypt.

In Ecclesiastes it is said that there is a time for everything. It can be argued that only Labor could have withdrawn Israeli troops from seven Arab cities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), just as only Likud could have made peace with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Similarly, it may be the case that only a Netanyahu Likud government can properly secure peace under the current circumstances.

Netanyahu is committed to pursuing the Oslo 2 Accords. He has said he is prepared to dialogue with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat. However, he will do so with far greater caution, toughening up Israel's security posture and insisting that the PLO comply with every one of its commitments to Oslo 2.

If, for example, a terrorist escapes into one of the West Bank's Arab communities, Netanyahu will preserve Israel's right to hot pursuit. While desiring peace no less than his Labor counterparts, Netanyahu will not allow Israel's security to be brokered by Arafat.

Moreover, for Netanyahu, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights will always remain in Israeli hands, and while there will be broad autonomy for Palestinians, there will be no Palestinian state.

Americans should support Netanyahu's position on the Golan as Israel's withdrawal from those heights would inevitably mean that U.S. troops would be stationed there to act as a buffer between Syrian and Israeli troops.

Perhaps of greatest importance is the need for Netanyahu to reach out to the opposition to create a broad coalition. Israel today is divided, even polarized. What is crucial now is for the different factions, right and left, religious and secular to come together.

It is time for extreme politics to make way for the politics of consensus.

As painful as it is for those like myself who have debated and advocated Israel's right to incorporate Judea and Samaria, we must now recognize that the withdrawal of Israeli troops from seven cities in Israel's heartland means that the philosophy of "not one inch" no longer reflects political reality.

The left must likewise recognize that uprooting settlers and settlements contravenes the will of the people. A compromise map should be drawn up whereby 95 percent of Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria will remain in a Palestinian entity while 95 percent of settlers will remain under Israeli rule.

As one who dissented from Labor policies during these past four years, I've been made to feel cut out. Anyone who disagreed with the Israeli government was discounted. The greatest challenge facing the new prime minister of Israel is to be sensitive not only to those who voted for him, but to be sensitive to those who did not.