Another mandate?

As the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians remains at a standstill, and violence continues to engulf the region, an interesting twist has emerged from Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Labor Party’s dovish hawk who swept away Benjamin Netanyahu in elections almost three years ago, has unexpectedly resigned and is calling for new elections to take place in 60 days. When Barak rode into the office of prime minister with high hopes, peace certainly seemed a more reachable goal. The possibilities of reaching a lasting peace have diminished in the past few weeks with the rising violence, and it appears this is one of the primary reasons Barak is calling for new elections.
Israeli election law is set up in a way beneficial to Barak. The election two months from now will only be for the position of prime minister, and, more importantly, a candidate must already be a sitting member of parliament to participate, thus preventing ex-Prime Minister Netanyahu — the Likud Party’s former leader and Barak’s principle rival, who is leading in opinion polls across Israel — from running. This provides an incredible tactical advantage for Barak, who will now most likely face the current but less popular leader of the Likud Party, Ariel Sharon.
Despite the political maneuverings Barak is performing to ensure a successful reelection, his reasons for running are notable. At the news conference called to announce new elections, he said that he wanted to “receive a renewed mandate to lead Israel.”
The prime minister has faced serious setbacks in the past months. In addition to failing to walk away with a peace deal with Yasir Arafat at July’s Camp David summit meeting, Barak has naturally been the focus of much of the blame in Israel for the Palestinian violence in recent months, and his coalition in parliament is near collapse. For him to successfully lead Israel in the near future, he must show people inside and outside of his nation that he has a clear mandate to lead. Anything else will do nothing but continue to erode his power base.
What this situation does for the peace process is unknown. It is unlikely that these next 60 days will suddenly bring forward an agreement. During such an unstable time for Israel, it is perhaps best for both sides to spend these next two months working to eliminate the violence that has permeated the region. Once Barak returns, or a new person is elected to the post of prime minister, the mandate he will hold from the Israeli people will propel the nation into a lasting peace.