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Editorials
Saturday, May 15, 1999

Israeli elections could
mean war or peace

Bullet The issue: Benjamin Netanyahu seeks a fresh mandate as prime minister.
Bullet Our view: Neither of the major candidates can afford to be viewed as soft on Palestinian demands.

FOR such a small country, Israel commands a disproportionate share of the world's attention. This will be particularly true of Monday's elections, which could determine whether Israel's efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors will succeed.

In one corner is the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking a fresh mandate as prime minister. His tenure, which began in 1996 after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, has been a stormy one, filled with conflicts with the Palestinians and with his Israeli opponents.

In the other is Ehud Barak, Netanyahu's former army commander and Israel's most decorated soldier. Although he is backed by the liberal Labor Party, Barak differs little from Netanyahu on Arab issues. There are three other candidates for prime minister, including an Arab, but only Netanyahu and Barak are given any chance to win. Barak is leading in the polls.

Netanyahu defeated Labor's 1996 candidate, Shimon Peres, by picturing himself as a leader who would stand up to the Palestinians -- unlike Peres, who had a reputation for making too many concessions to them. Barak rejects the accusation that he would be soft on the Palestinians. He refuses to share Jerusalem with them, insists on keeping most of the Israeli West Bank settlements in place, and vows to be stingy on giving up West Bank land.

Barak's prospects seem to have been improved by a backlash against Netanyahu's prickly personality and opportunistic tactics. Many of the prime minister's cabinet members and other supporters have abandoned him. Barak has also scored by focusing on Israel's economic problems.

Despite criticism of his personal shortcomings, Netanyahu retains the support of ultra-religious Jews and blue-collar workers, many of them immigrants from other Middle Eastern and North African countries who resent domination by Jews of European origin.

The Palestinians had considered declaring an independent state on May 4, the original deadline for the completion of negotiations on the future status of their Israeli-occupied land. But Yasser Arafat decided to hold off, fearing that could play into Netanyahu's hands in the elections. The Palestinian leadership would rather deal with Barak, despite his vow to defend Israeli interests vigorously. A unilateral declaration of statehood would still be an option -- an explosive one -- after the elections.

In the last election for prime minister, President Clinton made clear his preference for Shimon Peres. That created an awkward situation when Netanyahu won. This time Washington is being more discreet, which is a welcome change, but there is no doubt it doesn't want Netanyahu. Victory for Barak could mean a somewhat smoother course for the peace process.



Bishop Estate trustees

Bullet The issue: The interim trustees of the Bishop Estate have moved quickly to take charge of the estate and the Kamehameha Schools.
Bullet Our view: They deserve support in their efforts to keep the institution functioning smoothly.

THE newly installed interim trustees of the Bishop Estate have lost no time in taking charge after the temporary removal of the permanent trustees last week by Probate Judge Kevin Chang. The new trustees quickly appointed Nathan Aipa, the estate's general counsel, to the new position of temporary chief operating officer.

They have met with officials of the Internal Revenue Service regarding the estate's tax-exempt status and with staff of the estate and the Kamehameha Schools.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, the chairman of the interim board, retired Adm. Robert Kihune, said the trustees were told the permanent removal of the old trustees "remains a condition that is non-negotiable right now" and the interim board plans to ask the court for permanent removal. However, Kihune refused to say that the removal would resolve the tax issue.

The new trustees exude competence and determination to keep the estate and the schools operating at optimum efficiency despite the turmoil created by the controversies over the actions of the old trustees. Their appointment of Aipa raised questions because of his previous acts on behalf of the old trustees, but they expressed full confidence in him. Evidently they felt it essential to appoint a person fully familiar with the operations of the estate rather than bring someone new in. In addition to Aipa, they plan to appoint a chief executive officer.

In an article in this section on May 8 defending his vote to deny Margery Bronster confirmation as attorney general, Sen. David M. Matsuura asked the absurd question: "What is the state's goal in spending over $7 million on (the Bishop Estate) investigation? The destruction of the estate and Kamehameha Schools?"

Of course not. The state's intent is to hold the trustees accountable and to restore the estate's integrity, which is essential to its survival. That intention also underlies Judge Chang's removal order.

Similarly, the intention of the interim trustees is to preserve this treasured institution and repair the damage done by their irresponsible predecessors. We wish them well.



Bishop Estate Archive






Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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