Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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12 Sivan 5766 - June 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: Once Again Olmert and Peretz Fight and Make Up

By E. Rauchberger

Relations between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Defense Minister Amir Peretz are very poor. In fact they are nonexistent. They don't trust one another and if one of them makes a remark the other automatically says exactly the opposite. The tension between the two figures, whose respective parties form the foundation of the coalition, is running high and nobody seems to know how to solve the problem.

But they have no choice, for the two men are dependent on one another. Without Peretz, Olmert has no coalition and the last thing Peretz wants at this point is to give up his post and join the opposition. They can go on quarreling and creating crises but at the end of the day they have to make peace and go back to work. Until the next crisis.

The Olmert-Peretz partnership was impossible from the start. Both figures like to take the credit and the two men vied against one another for the Prime Minister's Office. Olmert won, but Peretz was already thinking about the next election campaign. With this in mind he demanded the defense portfolio to build an image of a security man and a national-level leader and to acquire experience in his area of perceived weakness.

Olmert definitely does have long-range plans, too. One term is not enough for him. He, too, will work to build up his image and reputation during the course of this term to position himself as the leading candidate in the next elections.

At this point the only person who can stand in his way is Amir Peretz and . . . Ehud Olmert himself, should he make unwarranted mistakes.

The Likud is mired in knee-deep mud. Despite the illustrious title of opposition chairman, Binyamin Netanyahu does not appear to have any plans to build himself as a viable alternative. With a grand total of barely 12 mandates he has a long way to go before he can be considered a real contender.

Amir Peretz was a flop in the elections. But in light of Kadima's own dubious showing and the fact his party has seven ministers in influential ministries he definitely presents an alternative to Olmert should the PM falter.

This has been the source of the constant tension between the two from the moment the government was set up and it will continue as long as their partnership lasts. And there is no solution to this hidden and open rivalry.

Recently political figures, including members of the coalition parties, estimate the current government has a lifespan of 12 to 18 months at most. These commentators and political forecasters certainly have the right to state their learned opinions, but Olmert does not give the impression he intends to serve as prime minister for such a short period of time. Nor will Peretz be satisfied with such a short stint as defense minister. He likes the job. It gives him a sense of importance, power and prestige and until he's made the most of it he has no intentions of yielding his throne in the Kiryah in Tel Aviv to make room for somebody else.

Olmert Outmaneuvers Peretz

Olmert has a lot more political experience than Peretz, certainly ministerial experience, and he takes advantage of his edge to strike out at his rival at every opportunity.

According to the law the Knesset must pass the 2006 budget within one week, otherwise the government falls, the Knesset gets disbanded and new elections have to be held, which none of the parties want at this point in time.

Olmert knew he would have to obtain approval for the budget in any case, with our without Peretz. So why not go ahead and cut half a billion shekels from the defense budget without even notifying Peretz in advance? Olmert also took full advantage of the fact that during the election campaign Peretz was the one calling for cuts in defense spending for the sake of social spending. Olmert realized Peretz would object to big cuts in his ministry's budget, but also realized his objections would be impotent. After all how could someone object to a move he himself called for from every soapbox just two or three months ago?

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