Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Cheshvan 5766 - November 16, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Politica: The Red Revolution

By E. Rauchberger

Shimon Peres' defeat in last week's Labor primaries was a major upheaval in the Israeli political scene, where things are about to get very lively. Sharon's chances of surviving the current term are now very slim.

Amir Peretz promised to take the Labor Party out of the government and he fully intends to keep his word. That means early elections, either at the end of winter or the beginning of spring, right after Pesach.

The big upheaval in the Labor Party could trigger a general political upheaval in its wake. Sharon had very different plans for the next two to three months. He wanted peace and quiet, both within the Likud Party and elsewhere, to help him pass the national budget. The political establishment knew despite his threats early last week before the Knesset plenum, after his failure to appoint his strong supporters, Baum and Bar-On, nothing much would happen until after the state budget passed all readings.

Amir Peretz' election shook the ground not just beneath Peres' feet and the Labor Party but beneath Ariel Sharon's feet as well. Peres, the man who even a bulldozer could not oust from the government, the man who provided the foundation for the government's survival, allowing Sharon to sleep soundly, has now lost. And this time he is stepping off the stage for good (so it seems, but when it comes to Peres, as long as he's still breathing—save the eulogies for later).

Perhaps the only person who can save Peres is Sharon, if he decides to set up a new party and bring in his aged Laborite partner. Both of them face problems within their respective parties: Peres has Peretz and Sharon has Netanyahu, Landau and the Likud Rebels to contend with. A new party could solve all of their problems.

Several Labor figures are probably dreaming of Sharon taking Peres out from their midst. People like Chaim Ramon and perhaps Dalia Itzik, Shalom Simchon and Orit Noked.

But even if Sharon decides to set up a new party he will definitely think twice before recruiting all sorts of Labor figures. He doesn't need losers on his list. He well remembers what happened to the Center Party when various stars fled their respective parties and gathered together under one list: after surveys showed they would command 22 mandates they ended up winning just six and quickly dashed into pieces.

Amir Peretz will invariably work to keep all of the top Labor figures at his side, including Shimon Peres. (The only exception could be Ehud Olmert, who he would be glad to forfeit.) At the same time he will make every effort to bring new blood into the party—well-known figures of wide repute, such as Ami Eilon. For if he goes to the polls again with just Pines, Herzog, Peres, Vilnai and Ben Eliezer in his repertoire his chances of rising up beyond what Labor achieved in the last elections will not be very good.

As far as the budget goes, the Likud Rebels who voted against the appointment of Baum and Bar-On are likely to vote in favor of the budget in the first reading and to present their demands as the second and third readings roll around. They want budget increases for welfare programs and construction in Judea and Samaria. And as usual all of the various figures making demands will fall into line.

The new finance minister, Ehud Olmert, is seasoned and shrewd enough to know how to give them the feeling they came away with some gain without giving away more than he wanted to spend on their causes in the first place.

Following their big victory over Sharon over the ministerial appointments they can act like victors. And victors tend to be generous. Not wanting to cut themselves off from the Prime Minister entirely, according to indications the Rebels, certainly the vast majority of them, will vote in favor of the budget.

The main problem will be dealing with the Labor Party in the new political era. That's a whole different ballgame. Amir Peretz is strongly opposed to the budget and will hold out for major changes. Olmert's tricks won't go over very well on him. He cannot be bought for cheap. Ehud Olmert has already stated he is prepared to cooperate with the Labor Party to obtain their support of the budget, but Peretz drives a hard bargain which the Finance Ministry probably cannot afford. And even if so it would be based on agreeing on a date for early elections.

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