JERUSALEM — Although many hope Ehud Barak's election can revive the Middle East peace process following several years of stagnation, analysts say the clocks can't simply be turned back. Hebrew University political scientist Reuven Hazan says that Mr. Barak will learn from the mistakes of his predecessors in the Labor Party, who seemed content to charge full steam ahead with territorial concessions while half the population was in an uproar.
"He will move slower ... and he will try to do it with a wider coalition," says Professor Hazan. "If [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat thinks that Barak will pick up the ball exactly where we left it three years ago, he may be in for a surprise."
Palestinians, though welcoming the election results as a vote for peace, say they too will need time to rebuild relations with Israel. "I think it will take much more than elections to repair the damage that's been done. The trust level between us and the Israeli government was below zero," says Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.
Having met Barak on a few occasions, Dr. Erekat says he doesn't expect him to quickly agree to Palestinian demands. "I don't think we'll have an easy ride with Barak, but there is a big difference between non-negotiators and tough negotiators," a reference to Netanyahu's perpetual stalling on the peace process.
In the end, it was Barak's image as someone who "won't give away the store," as Israelis like to put it, that helped him clinch a clear majority, something his predecessor Shimon Peres could never do.