Likud and Labor must stand together

A unity government makes the most sense for Israel at this juncture.

After Prime Minister Ehud Barak's overwhelming defeat, the Labor Party was in too much disarray to function as an opposition to Ariel Sharon's Likud Party. Not only was Labor badly bruised in the Feb. 6 election but its main message of peace had lost its effectiveness.

How could Labor continue to stomp for peace after having done everything possible to forge an agreement? Barak had offered the Palestinians more than any Israeli prime minister before him only to be rebuffed by Yasser Arafat.

Until Labor has a new message to sell the Israeli public, it might as well help Sharon present a better face to the world.

Sharon desperately needs Labor's Shimon Peres. The Nobel Peace Prize-winner would help to mellow Sharon's image as a warrior. Peres' Labor Party also might keep Sharon's government on a more moderate keel. Sharon's major task will be to save Israeli lives by ending the new intifada. And that could result in more bloodshed before a cease-fire is achieved. With Likud and Labor working under the same umbrella, the Palestinians will have less chance of dividing Israel's political leaders. Together Likud and Labor can insist that there will be no new peace talks until the violence ends.

Every poll over the years has shown Israelis value security above all else. But with random shootings and terrorism, achieving security is more difficult than ever. That's why Likud and Labor must work together.

It won't be easy. Undoubtedly each side will try to dissolve the government every time a disagreement occurs. Those disagreements need not be about peace talks. Domestic issues such as teacher salaries could also destroy a unity government.

But for the good of the country, the two parties must stand together until calm can be restored.

Once calm is achieved, new elections can determine which party has the best plan for ultimate peace.