Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Washington Appears Pleased with Polls Showing Peres Win

May 30, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Washington breathed an audible sigh of relief when early exit polling data showed Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres leading in Wednesday’s election.

But with the race too close to call, those rooting for the Nobel Prize laureate and architect of the peace process reserved their cheers as they awaited final returns.

National Security Council officials brought President Clinton information on the election as it became available from the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

Clinton had made clear his preference for Peres during public speeches in recent weeks.

“Whatever decision” Israeli voters make, “obviously all countries will accept and respect,” Clinton said on the eve of the election.

“But if they decide to stay with peace, we will do what we can to make sure they can have security, as well.”

The White House reserved all comment until Israel’s scheduled announcement of official results overnight Wednesday.

“Because this is a new format of election, it’s not entirely clear to us whether or not exit poll modeling is very accurate,” said White House spokesman Michael McCurry.

“Our government will most likely await for any word of official reaction from either the candidates or from the government itself” before speaking out.

At the State Department, members of the peace process team huddled around televisions and awaited cables from Israel with any hints of which candidate would win.

Aides hunkered down for what they anticipated would be a long night before any definitive word on the winner.

While more reserved publicly than their counterparts at the White House, State Department officials named Peres their favorite horse in the election contest.

Many predicted privately that a win by Benjamin Netanyahu would turn Washington policy-makers on their heads. They feared that a hardline Israeli stance toward Syria and the Palestinian Authority would end the extended honeymoon between the United States and Israel.

On Capitol Hill, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle sent their staffers to television sets to watch early Israeli broadcasts simultaneously aired on CNN.

Recommended from JTA