As returns trickled in during the predawn hours after election day last week, and the opposition Labor Party mistakenly thought it was winning, a bleary-eyed Haim Bar-Lev, the party's leading dove, stood in the glaring television lights at campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv and made a pronouncement that seemed, at the moment, to be of stunning importance.
The election proved, Bar-Lev declared ebulliently, that there is no majority in favor of the concept of a Greater Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. The vote had been a victory for the principle of territorial compromise in exchange for peace with the Arab world.
An astonished Prime Minister Menachem Begin, listening in his Tel Aviv apartment, waited several days, until the final election returns had thrust his Likud Party into a narrow lead, before rebutting Bar-Lev. Meeting with former foreign minister Moshe Dayan to discuss coalition possibilities, Begin said, "We received a mandate for Eretz Yisrael," meaning the Biblical vision of Israel that includes the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip.
While both Begin and Bar-Lev may have indulged a bit in hyperbole, analysis of the election returns and the ideological makeup of Israel's 10th Knesset (parliament), which will be sworn in two weeks from now, indicates that Begin was much closer to the mark, and that Israel's policies on the question of the occupied territories and their 1.3 million Arab inhabitants are likely to harden as a result of the balloting.
This stance comes at a time when renewal of now-dormant negotiations on Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is expected to revive U.S. interest in the Palestinian issue, which the Reagan administration has put on a back burner until now. The stance, coupled with the prospect of a tighter daily administration of the West Bank and Gaza, would appear to promise sharp differences in the months ahead between Israel and the United States over the occupied territories.
Begin's rightist Likud Bloc increased its number of seats in the Knesset from 43 to 48. Within the Likud -- the nucleus that appears able to form a coalition majority of 61 members of parliament -- the relatively moderate Liberal Party faction has become more conservative with a resurgence of power by its younger, more hawkish wing, resulting in what appears to be a less compromising Likud core.
For another, the coalition will be more compact than that formed in 1977, and will not include the 15 members of the now-defunct Democratic Movement for Change, which exerted a moderating influence on Begin's Cabinet. By agreement before joining the coalition, the Democratic Movement had the right to challenge any decision on building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories by taking the issue to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for arbitration.
All indications are both that Begin's coalition will be limited to the Lukud, the National Religious Party, the ultraorthodox Agudat Yisrael party and the religious-oriented Tami party, a splinter of the National Religious Party. None of these elements has a history of flexibility on the question of the occupied territories.
Moreover, within the National Religious Party, which won six seats, the conservative "young guard" led by Education Minister Zevulun Hammer is beginning to show its dominance over the more moderate faction led by the titular head of the party, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, who was Israel's chief negotiator in the autonomy negotiations.
Agudat Yisrael, which won four seats, traditionally concentrates its attention on legislation affecting religious observances. It normally is pliant on foreign policy and security issues preferring to ride with the majority of the government.
"There are no Weizmans in our new coalition," a Likud official said, referring to former defense minister Ezer Weizman whose pragmatic approach to the autonomy negotiations led to a bitter dispute with Begin -- and his resignation from the Cabinet.
On the other side of the Knesset aisle, the Labor Party also reflects a more hawkish character than after the 1977 election in spite of -- or, perhaps, because of -- its 50 percent jump in members. Labor jumped from 32 to 47 seats in this election.
Although the Labor Party since 1967 has advocated in its campaigns platforms that would return roughly two-thirds of the West Bank to Jordan in exchange for a peace treaty and the right of Israel to maintain strategic settlements along the Jordan River, the list of candidates this year reflects a distinct turn to the right on the issue of security.
An analysis of the Labor Party Knesset roster, based on past voting performance and publicly stated positions during the campaign, indicates there are 18 members with uncompromising on territorial concession, 13 members who have adopted a middle-ground stance or could lean in either direction, and 17 members who have been inclined to yield territory for peace and are generally considered to be "dovish" on the settlements issue.
The more compromising wing is led by the leftist Mapam faction of the Labor Alignment, and also includes Bar-Lev, former foreign minister Abba Eban, Naftali Blumenthal and the two Israeli Arabs on the Labor list, Hamad Haila and Mohammed Watad. The conservative wing is led by Danny Rosolio, Eliahu Speiser and Gad Yaacobi, and the centrists by Party Chairman Shimon Peres and former premier Yitzhak Rabin.
The caveat in typecasting Labor Party members is that on certain issues, votes cannot be predicted. For example, Yaacobi, who is against territorial compromise, voted last year against a Likud resolution reaffirming Israel's sovereignty over the annexed Arab sector of East Jerusalem.
Also affecting the character of the new Knesset is the demise of a number of a small, left-of-center parties as Israeli voters shifted their performance to the two major parties.
Although the liberal Shinui and Citizens' Rights Movement parties won a total of three seats, they are offset by the ultranational Tehyia (Renaissance) party, which advocates a halt to Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. The communist-led Democratic Front for Peace and Equality dropped one seat, from five to four, and the leftist Shelli party, which had two seats, was voted out of the Knesset.
"If anything, the election showed a clear movement to the right on foreign policy and security. If Labor wants to do better in the next election, it must move to the right," Yohanan Ramati, chairman of the foreign relations committee of the Likud's rightist La'am faction, said in an interview.
"I think the election upheld our view that autonomy is not a temporary solution. It must be a permanent solution, with no foreign sovereignty in any part of the areas -- ever," he added.
Ramati estimested that six of Labor's seats were gained as a result of the vote by Israeli Arabs, meaning that the Jewish support for territorial compromise is even smaller than the Knesset, roster shows, and that another 11 seats are attributable to voters who support the Likus's West Bank policy but feel obligated to vote Labor.
"The consensus of Israel is that we will be incapable of defending ourselves if we agree to any territorial compromise. The sooner the United States realizes that, the closer you will be to understanding the true sentiment of this country," Ramati said.
Public opinion polls consistently appear to support that view.
In a survey last month, Hanoch Smith, Israel's leading public opinion analyst, found that 34 percent of the sample favored the hard-line settlement position of the ultranationalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) organization, up from 14 percent in March 1980. An additional 16 percent favored controlled settlement in specified strategic areas. Only 7 percent said they were against adding settlements while expanding existing ones.
Smith's polls also show that virtually the entire electorate is against territorial compromise in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and that only about 10 percent favor withdrawal from any part of the West Bank, even in return for peace with Jordan.
Interviews this week with Jewish settlers in the West Bank indicated general satisfaction with the results of the election.
In the Elon Moreh settlement near Nablus, 28-year-old Michal Shvot, whose husband teaches at Tel Aviv's Bar-Ilan University, cited the Likud gains and the more conservative makup of the new Labor Party in the Knesset, likening Labor to "an ideological supermarket" with some strong support for settlements.
"At the moment, world opinion seems to be problem for us, but it's a matter of where we draw the line. I think the Knesset will understand that," Shvot said, adding, "We have to go on living here."
Beyond the broad outlook of the Knesset, some settlers said they are encouraged by reports that Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, the driving force behind Begin's settlement policy, will be named defense minister in the new Cabinet. With Sharon overseeing the military government in the West Bank, the settlers said, day-to-day control of Arab expressions of nationalism are likely to be tightened.