Shimon Peres has done just about everything he can to telegraph he’s leaving the Israeli Labor Party for Ariel Sharon’s new Kadima except making the actual announcement. First, there were the hours of meetings with Sharon shortly after his defeat in the Labor leadership primary. In the past day or so, Peres’ chief Labor ally, Dahlia Itzik bolted Labor for Kadima. Then, Peres’ brother, Gigi, made repulsive racist comments on Israeli radio about Amir Peretz’s North African ethnicity:
“Peretz and his people are a foreign body in the Labor Party, like General Franco in Spain,” Gershon (Gigi) Peres told Army Radio in an interview.
“They were the Falangists who came from southern Spain,” Peres continued, who came to infiltrate as a fifth column into Madrid, and destroyed the magnificent republic.”
Referring to Peretz’ former Knesset faction, Gigi Peres said “This game is entirely clear – the One Nation people came from North Africa, took over, and shot them in the back.”
Whether or not Shimon Peres approved his brother’s comments matters very little. The fact that someone so close to him mounted such an offensive attack on Peretz certainly indicates that the Peres family (including the political scion) is not terribly happy with the Party’s new leader.
Then Peres made this statement of praise for Sharon:
“The real change is not in the Labor Party. The real change is in the Likud Party [i.e. in Sharon leaving Likud],” Peres said Tuesday in Barcelona. “Mr. Sharon took a different direction for a Palestinian state. He wants to continue the peace process.”
We won’t have long to wait for the other shoe to drop and for Peres to hightail it out of Labor.
According to Haaretz, rumors have it Peres will not run as an MK candidate on the Kadima list. Rather, he will become a super ambassador for the peace process:
Sharon may offer Peres a future position as effective “special ambassador for peace affairs” in future negotiations with Arabs. Were Sharon to win re-election, such an appointment would place Peres at the center of all regional and international contacts toward diplomatic progress toward peace with the Palestinians, the report said. Sharon’s senior adviser Uri Shani is said to have made the offer to Peres in a meeting at the end of last week.
Of course, this begs the question–why would Sharon need a foreign minister if he’s ceding control of the most important real estate in the portfolio to Peres, who wouldn’t even be elected?
Peres’ abandonment of his life-long political home means one thing to me: those who voted him out as Labor leader were absolutely right in doing so. If he could turn his back on his party so easily, it can only mean that the Party and its principles were not intrinsic for him, but only a means to an end, which was wielding power for power’s sake. Peres risks becoming a political fossil (many would say he’s long been one) who is increasingly irrelevant to Israeli politics.
Ephraim Sneh, a current Labor MK who did not support Peretz in the leadership fight had this to say to Peres:
“This party of Sharon’s cannot be a ‘home’ for a person who has the ideology of peace and of the Labor Party,” Sneh said.
“Sharon is moving with cleverness, witth cunning, to set out a map in the West Bank, in Judea and Samaria, that is a recipe for the continuation of the conflict.
Referring to Peres, Sneh concluded, “A man who has worked so hard for the sake of peace, and received a Nobel Prize for it, will not lend his fand to a plan that is a hoax.”
“I very much hope he has not changed his world view.”
His remarks already sound prescient.
Dahlia Itzik, not out of the Labor Party more than a few hours has already slung some traditional Israeli red-baiting slurs Peretz’s way:
“As I look at those joining the Labor Party, it’s entirely clear that the party has adopted a diplomatic policy platform that is more Meretz than Meretz – it is Rakah [the former Israeli Communist Party] – even left of Rakah.”
She should be seen as a stalking horse for Peres. But what she’s doing does not do Peres a favor. It merely drags him down into the gutter with her.