Thursday, November 10, 2005

So Amir Peretz was elected as the new leader of the Labor party. If this is a revolution I am not sure if it is a good one. The party needed to be shaken up a bit, but the question is whether Peretz was the ideal man to do that. He symbolizes much of the less positive sides of the Histadrut labor union, not only as an employer, but also as an apparatus through which it is relatively easy to further one's political career. That the economy and the citizens of Israel sometimes had to suffer because of strikes that furthered Amir Peretz' political interests much more than the interests of the workers involved did not really bother him. All the way through his campaign for the chairmanship of Labor his position was last among people who said they would vote Labor, while it was very strong among those who registered as party members. This only confirms what was already a known fact: many of the Peretz-voters within the party were men and women who were enlisted through or within the still very powerful Histadrut labor union. Since that labor union is an employer of thousands it is often difficult to know whether a Histadrut worker or another employee who was registered by/through one of his superiors became a party member and voted for Peretz because (s)he believes Labor should lead the next government ( and will vote for the party ) or because (s)he does not want to rub his/her employer up the wrong way.
Of course Shimon Peres should have quit a long time ago. Maybe now he finally will realize that he has done enough for Israel, someone who is 82 is not the right person to lead a party or a country. His contributions to the security of the state ( both through his diplomatic skills and because of his work for the defense ministry; Israel's nuclear deterrence is due largely to his efforts and contacts with French officials in the 1950s and early 1960s ) are enormous, but as a politician you need much more than that to gain popular support.
If Ariel Sharon sets up his own party before the coming elections, I am positive that he will gain many votes from those who in the last elections voted either Shinuy or Labor. The biggest shake-up to which Amir Peretz contributed or will contribute is probably in the center of the Israeli political spectrum. Just like the Likud might ( or already has ) split up into a far-right part and a part that represents the political center, Labor now will be divided more than ever before into a pragmatic, non-ideological and a more stubborn, pseudo-ideological part. As I said earlier, the coming six months will be entertaining and fascinating for everyone who is interested in Israeli politics.

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