JERUSALEM -- Yitzhak Rabin says his priorities as Israel's next prime minister would be peace negotiations to bring about Palestinian self-rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and an end to construction of "political settlements" there.
Mr. Rabin, the victorious Labor Party leader in the national election Tuesday, added that he hopes in the process to improve relations with the United States, which have been seriously strained over the settlements issue.
"Every penny that goes to them is a blow to the things that are most important to Israel," he told a television interviewer last night, referring to settlements not explicitly needed for Israeli security. "As far as the national budget is concerned, the building will stop."
Mr. Rabin spoke only in general terms and for the most part reiterated basic themes from his campaign as he savored the first day after a stunning Labor victory over the long-governing Likud bloc.
Nevertheless, he sought to emphasize that many of his principal concerns would be different from Likud's, but stating that he is no less committed to Israel's security.
"I believe that peace that doesn't contribute to security has no meaning and isn't worth the name 'peace,' " he said at a separate news conference.
Mr. Rabin's triumph does not mean he has a government yet, for he still needs to find coalition partners to give him a working majority in the 120-member Parliament. In fact, he suggested concern that the incomplete alliance he now leads may lean too far to the left, and he raised the possibility of religious and right-wing parties helping him to form a "broad national consensus."
In an apparent gesture toward the right, the Labor leader urged his left-wing allies in a coalition called Meretz not to press demands for a Palestinian state or for a complete freeze on Jewish settlements, whether defined as "political" or otherwise.
And he said that even if Palestinians gain self-rule -- a status that he has said he hopes to realize within nine months of taking office -- it did not mean that all 140 settlements built in the West Bank and Gaza over the past 25 years would disappear.
"We're not going to uproot settlements as we did in Sinai," he said, evoking what for many Israelis was a traumatic leveling of Jewish communities in the Sinai Desert a decade ago as part of a peace treaty with Egypt.
As praise of the Labor victory and expressions of hope for peace flowed in from the United States, Europe and Arab countries, Mr. Rabin and his strategists began to deal with the complex political arithmetic involved in putting together a stable coalition. They talked about having a government in place in three to five weeks, and some of them set as a target July 13, when the new Parliament is scheduled to convene.
While there are several uncertainties, one point is obvious. Labor's rout of Likud could scarcely have been more thorough -- 45 parliamentary seats to 32, in the unofficial final tally. Likud, which held power for 15 years, now finds itself a dispirited and disoriented opposition party, one that its officials assume will endure debilitating internal arguments and possible schisms before its fortunes improve.
Its leader of the past decade, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, was widely expected to step aside before too long. Mr. Shamir hinted at that possibility in a television interview early yesterday morning.
"We have to revamp the party," said Benjamin Netanyahu, one of several young party officials who would like to succeed Mr. Shamir. "It's very clear that the biggest message voters sent to us was: You've been there too long, and you forgot that you're accountable. And they're right."
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker called yesterday for a quick resumption of Middle East peace talks once the new Labor-led Israeli government takes office.
Mr. Baker, however, declined to be drawn into any predictions about the still pending Israeli request for $10 billion in loan guarantees to help absorb Russian immigrants.
Israel postponed the request in March, after refusing to meet the Bush administration's condition that it freeze all new settlement building in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.