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Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu employed different strategies for peace with the PLO and Yassar Arafat. The issues dividing Israel and The PLO are not easy and therefore it should be expected that there would be different views on how to handle the situation.

Netanyahu (Bibi) had a more right wing view than Barak. This hindered Bibi, but also resulted in Arafat making more concessions. At the Wyes Accord, Bibi’s hard-line resulted in Arafat changing the PLO charter to not seek the destruction of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Rabin and Peres had been unable to force Arafat to make this concession in earlier years of negotiations.

Despite this, Bibi only had very limited success. His government insisted on the building of settlements on disputed territory. Even when Bibi and Arafat would make an agreement, it appeared the next day Bibi was making an agreement with the Orthodox parties to build more settlements. This resulted in distrust between the PLO and the Likud led government.

On the question of a Palestinian State, Bibi felt that a completely sovereign PLO state would result in the loss of Israeli security. This loss was not worth the gain of peace.

On the issue of Jerusalem Bibi felt there was no issue. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and therefore should not ever be cut in half. The PLO’s claim to Eastern Jerusalem and Bibi’s stance resulted in this becoming a very emotional issue.

Emotional issues aside, Barak’s government took a much more moderate approach than the government of his predecessor. Barak took the approach that peace will decrease the need for as tight security. This attitude forced Barak to compromise on several key issues.

Barak ordered the Israeli army to close down religious settlements. He basically turned guns on the religious Jews and told them to leave their settlements. Right or wrong, this set up an interesting foil to the Bibi-run government.

On the question of a Palestinian State Barak believed that it was inevitable and not granting them a state would just further increase tensions between the two sides. Unfortunately Barak’s version of a state and the PLO’s version were and are different, Barak envisioned a PLO run state with the capital in Abu Dis (a suburb of Jerusalem), while Arafat maintained that the Palestinian state should include Eastern Jerusalem.

Barak has gone as far as offering limited sovereignty over some religious sites in Jerusalem, but Arafat has yet to bit on the compromise. Arafat appears the hardliner in this battle and no end is in sight.

Barak and Bibi had different policies for peace. Thus far none of the approaches has met with that much success.