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Can Amir Peretz Win?

Dan Ben Simon, a senior political columnist for Israel’s Haaretz, has written an extremely upbeat assessment of Amir Peretz’s chances of winning the upcoming Knesset election. It is featured at the Israel Policy Forum website. Ben Simon isn’t just talking about Peretz improving Labor’s showing in the next Knesset, he’s saying he thinks Peretz can poll more votes than Sharon’s Kadima.

Considering Israel’s media coverage yesterday of polls indicating that Peres’ jump to Kadima may push new voters Sharon’s way, Ben Simon is being extremely optimistic. But hey, there’s far too much pessimism going around the Middle East right about now and I like a man who bucks the trend. As for me, I think the media made too much of the poll in Sharon’s favor and I think Ben Simon may be speaking more from his heart than his head regarding Peretz’s chances. So I come down somewhere in between. The race will be a close one and perhaps a few seats will separate Kadima and Labor.

The unknown for me is how a political firebrand like Peretz will fit in a coalition with Ariel Sharon. They seem the oddest of odd couples.

Ben Simon has also written a scathing post mortem on Peres’ jumping ship for Haaretz:

But the simple folk [i.e. Israeli voters], those who have it tough, those with morals and a conscience who truly have the good of the country at the forefront of their concerns, have always seen him as an incorrigible opportunist, a politician lacking in qualities, a power-hungry individual who became addicted to the pleasures of the government.

And this is the reason they humiliated him time and again. Every time he ran for office, the voters pushed him away from the centers of national responsibility. Because they knew, with their sharp senses, that this is a man who has no God other than his personal good…

One cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that the reason Peres left his political home is the reason voiced by his brother, Gershon, another renowned philosopher [!]. There is no escaping the conclusion that evil and ugly motives were behind the decision to jump ship – not ideology or anything else like that. Amir Peretz is simply not “one of us.” He is “different” and he looks “different.”

A chapter in the Labor movement has been closed. The eternal leader who came across as an electoral barrier to large segments of the public has upped and left. Now, he has become Ariel Sharon’s problem.

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