But while Netanyahu's ouster has sparked rampant optimism around the world over the prospects of the peace process, a closer inspection of Barak's positions reveals that he is something of a hawk at the head of a dovish party. "There's a lot of wishful thinking about Barak by the U.S. and Arab governments," says Hamad. "On key issues such as the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, his positions are very close to those of Netanyahu. He may be prepared to allow the Palestinians to call their entity a state, but where Netanyahu was prepared to give up 35 percent of the West Bank, Barak may go up to 40 percent -- but no higher." In other words, Israelis and Palestinians still remain quite capable of destroying their peace process even without Netanyahu.
If the Israeli-Palestinian peace process recovers from three years of Benjamin Netanyahu, it may owe its life to the hundreds of thousands of Russian immigrants who arrived in Israel in the '90s. "It was the Russians who broke the traditional deadlock between Israel's two traditional political blocs," says TIME Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "The mass defection of Russian voters from Netanyahu's camp created the momentum behind Ehud Barak that set up his historic landslide victory." Barak won 56.4 percent of the vote compared with Netanyahu's 43.4 percent in Monday's election. More important, his Labor party and its centrist allies captured enough parliamentary seats to create a coalition government without the ultra-orthodox religious parties, which have for decades enjoyed disproportionate power in Israeli coalition governments by virtue of the deadlock between Labor and Likud. Now the ultra-orthodox parties have been muscled out of the kingmaker role by the Russians.