Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Cheshvan 5766 - November 23, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
Politica: Will Peretz Learn from Mitzna's Mistakes?

By E. Rauchberger

The Labor Party and Amram Mitzna, who served as party chairman not long ago, parted company last week. It was not a particularly festive parting. Not at all. Just a few polite words and that was it. Mitzna realized that the Knesset no longer had much to offer him and preferred to go put matters in order in Yeruchom. But one person did have plenty of praise for Mitzna—Labor's new chairman, Amir Peretz. And Peretz knows he must learn from Mitzna's mistakes, or else he could suffer a similar fate.

The Labor Party is in much better shape now than when Mitzna stepped in, but this is not enough to guarantee that what happened to Mitzna won't happen to Peretz as well. For Chaim Ramon is still in the Labor Party, and so are Dalia Itzik, Ofir Pines and Yitzchak Herzog—and Shimon Peres, too.

Mitzna became party chairman with no experience in national politics. He was too decent and honest, but worst of all he had no power within the party. To get elected he rode a wave of popularity as an outsider and expectations among Labor members he was coming in to save them and put them back in power. He was also elected because his opponent was Binyamin Ben Eliezer.

Labor members did not give Mitzna even a one-day grace period. They saw him as a foreign element that had to be done away with and as someone trying to snatch the party from them. They did not forgive him for it until their wishes came true and Mitzna resigned even though it meant a major loss in the elections, leaving them with just 19 mandates.

Peretz, on the other hand, is coming from a very different starting point. He has served as a member of Knesset for 17 years and is very familiar with all the tricks of the trade, including those of his fellow party members. The battles he waged as Histadrut chairman also provided him considerable experience. Peretz is a well-known figure in the Labor Party, where he has numerous loyal supporters and dedicated activists who are willing to follow him, come what may.

Furthermore, without casting aspersions on Peretz' decency or integrity, chas vesholom, he's a real politician just like all the rest, unlike Mitzna, who was of a different stripe and had a sense of frankness, honesty and truth not commonly found in the political spectrum.

But Peretz has one major advantage over Mitzna that has all of Labor's MKs scared. Mitzna had no influence on the Knesset list, whereas Peretz will have a great deal of influence, which he intends to take full advantage of.

Out of the 100,000 Labor voters, nearly 25,000 are loyal Peretz supporters and in the primaries for the formation of the Knesset list they will do exactly what Peretz' staff tell them to do. Every MK big or small is fully aware of the power Peretz wields and knows if he does not step into line with the new Party Chairman his chances of receiving a realistic spot on the list for the next Knesset will drop drastically.

The Media has its Priorities

The Israeli media is known for its longstanding support for the Left or a Right-winger who speaks the language of the Left and carries out the Left's agenda. Someone like Ariel Sharon and his Disengagement, for instance. But the media's primary loyalties are to money and economics, and if somebody tries to hit them in the pocket, they will immediately set aside all of their beliefs.

Amir Peretz received a mixed reception from the media. Some said they were waiting for the real victory in the general elections and some poked fun at him for his inability to speak decent English while seeking to serve as prime minister of Israel.

Most rich people in Israel are tied to the Left. But Amir Peretz will have to watch his step. The moment it realizes his platform is liable to take away from their bank accounts, the media will join forces against him, trample him underfoot and do away with him. And without the media how will he be heard by the poor of Kiryat Shemoneh and Netivot, Midgal Ha'emek and Dimona?

Amir Peretz will have to keep in mind that the media never backed him and his battle in the Histadrut. It always opposed the big committees, the port workers who earned tens of thousands of shekels and struck in support of Peretz and the strikes that cost the economy huge sums.

The media will waver between supporting the issue Amir Peretz holds dear and their personal economic interests. In the end their own interests will win out and if Peretz fails to take this into account, he will pay dearly.

The problem for him is that if he blurs his economic doctrine he won't have much left to sell in the elections.

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