Well, at least in the Labor party they do. Amir Peretz is the party’s new leader, overcoming active and inactive challengers such as Peres, Barak, Ben Elizer, Vilnai and others. As head of the party, he will be its next candidate for PM of Israel in the elections that will be held in a few months (negotiations are pending on the date).

Peretz has already pledged to remove Labor from its current alliance with the leading Likud party. There is no question that this will remove Labor from the decision-making circle of Sharon’s cabinet. However, it will also force Sharon to modify his plans. Essentially, it appears that any plan he may have had to remove settlements from the West Bank and perhaps even complete construction of the security fence will have to be put on hold. Polls are showing that Likud with Sharon at its head will still win an election, but this depends upon the role of Netanyahu and other Sharon opponents within his party. Sharon might also form a new party (supposedly with Peres), but that seems to me as an unlikely option because it carries too much risk at this point by positioning him against a well-identified “brand” that he helped build in the Likud.

The same polls show Peretz winning as many as 29 seats for Labor, regaining traditional seats that were lost to Shas, Shinui and Meretz.

What makes him so attractive? Is it because Peretz is an old school Laborite with a somewhat Socialist view of the world? Is it because he can get many non-Ashkenazi Israelis to see him as one of their own? Is it because he comes from working class roots but has achieved the pinnacle of Israeli politics?


It’s because he’s Moroccan. ‘Nuff said.

By the way, according to Ynet, his father was the head of the Jewish community in Morocco. Yet, upon arrival in Israel in 1956, he took – or had to take – a blue collar factory job. That is a stunning but not surprising detail. And yet, can there be any greater indication that the mis-steps of those years have been tempered by subsequent decades, than the election of a Moroccan Socialist union leader to the head of Israel’s second largest party?

We are in for a few interesting months.

Now, if he would just shave that Stalinesque moustache.

Sources: Ynet; Ha’aretz; Jerusalem Post.

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  • Honestly, I can imagine dumb Americans seeing the new Prime Minister of Israel in a few months, and thinking, “Didn’t we capture him in Iraq?” 😉

    Seriously, though. I think Peretz could really pull it off. He would get a lot of support from the voting bases of Shinui, Meretz (from his secular left stance), Likud, and Shas (which have a lot of Sepharadi/Mizrahi members). In fact, R. Ovadia Yosef called Peretz to congratulate him, as did Netanyahu and Sharon (among many others). In other words, he has appeal that crosses several demographics. Nice.

    Though I am still a big fan of Shimon Peres. I personally think he should have pushed for an investigation of some of the polling irregularities, but perhaps it wasn’t worth it (beneath him).

    With both Peres and Sharon disaffected with their own parties, it would be phenominal for them to brazenly forge a centrist party. I definitely think they could pull it off, but such political maneuvers are usually a young-man’s game.

  • funny, when i see the moustache i think Stalin…
    themiddle, can one be stunned without being surprised?

  • The time of Israel elected retired generals such as Rabin, Barak, Netanyahu, Sharon etc is over. Finally a regular working class person can be head of a major political party. There is more to Israel that just the conflict with the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s social policies are bleeding many of the middle class. The election of Amir Peretz, a trade unionist, is a sign that Israelis(or at least the Labour party) are ready to return to the country’s socialist roots.
    Who knows, if Labour can elect a non-general to lead them, maybe we may soon a see a woman(who doesn’t act like a man, sorry Golda) leading Likud.
    Any suggestions?

  • The man is a communist mafioso. If he wins, it will be an economic disaster. Labor is nothing more than a joke. A very sad joke.

  • Now, now, there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do when he sits in that chair and has to decide where the meager resources go. It’s much easier to sit in opposition and criticize, but everyone is chastened by reality when they come into power.

  • Just a few misconceptions here (people, think for yourselves, not what the media pushes);

    it would be phenominal for [Peres and Sharon] to brazenly forge a centrist party.

    Sharon is the current darling/bitch of the Israeli media for one and only one reason; he has successfully captured the ‘right’ and is executing left-wing policies, especially retreating from the territories and dissing the religious. C’est tout. The second Sharon makes a u-turn back to the right, is the day is is totally wiped off the Israeli political map. All the talk about Sharon breaking off to form a political party is a smokescreen to threaten the current likud regime that the current three year ‘party’ will be over and that if ‘I’m going down, then everyone is coming with me’. No one will vote for a new party led, or co-led by Sharon. He’s a simple tool being used by the media and will be thrown away very shortly.

    The election of Amir Peretz, a trade unionist, is a sign that Israelis(or at least the Labour party) are ready to return to the country’s socialist roots.

    What’s in the brackets should be outside. This week has been designated ‘be proud we’re left’ by the Israeli media (most Israelis are not leftist). Starting with coverage of the Labour primaries as if it was the home team, and culminating in tonight’s Rabin celebrations which is being covered (unprecedented) live as if it were a national ceremony while leftist politicians (including Peretz) give policy speeches blasting the right.

    Don’t read too much into a ‘labour union’ leader ascending to control the labour party. Peretz won the Labour primaries because they’ve realized that Peres is frankly and old fart, and also, no one else is even close to being a ‘leader’ (Eliezer? Vilnay? Itzik?).

  • also, clearly, Stalin was mentioned b/c this dude is totally rocking the Stalin look. were he bald with a devlish goatee and moustache, you would probably see some Lenin references.

  • Ittay: When was Netanyahu ever a general?

    Ofri: I believe the correct term for that style of facial hair is a Van-Dyke.

    Josh: How is Sharon dissing the religious, by withdrawing from Gaza? I don’t see the flow of money to orthodox institutions stopping any time soon. Oh, love the critical analysis: Peres lost because he’s an ‘old fart’.

  • So, uh, what does this guy wanna do besides get Labor out of Likud? Anybody hear anything about what he believes, you know, besides communism and reviving the backwards socialist movement?

  • Whoa!! the first non-ashkenazi i know in the perliment…Well i am waiting for yeminite or more non-euro’s….

  • Well no, The unknown. That’s not actually accurate. There have been Arabs in parliament from day one. Shas is a decidedly non-ashkenazic party, there was also David Levy in the Likud and who could ever forget the inimitable Charlie Bitton! What’s really trippy is the idea of a moroccan as head of the Labor party. What’s also just freaky is the possibility of Shimon Peres joining Ariel Sharon in the formation of some yet undefined centrist party. It’s like the whole world has gone insane I tell ya!

  • the first non-ashkenazi in the knesset?

    Ben Eliezer, former head of the labour party for about two years and defence minister. Born in Iraq.
    Mofaz, not a member of parliament, but transplanted defence minister. Born in Iran.
    Yitzhak Mordechai, born in Iraq.
    Silvan Shalom, David Levy. Both non-ashkenzi foreign ministers (until now, the second most prestigious position in the government).
    Meir Shitrit, first moroccan Israeli finance minister.

    Josh: How is Sharon dissing the religious, by withdrawing from Gaza? I don’t see the flow of money to orthodox institutions stopping any time soon. Oh, love the critical analysis: Peres lost because he’s an ‘old fart’.

    I don’t know if this is the right thread to get into why the government is attacking the settlers, and especially the Gush Katif settlers specifically. I can just tell you that there are lots of proofs, the current one being the living hell that many are living in and the obtuse government that just doesn’t seem to care about them. In hebrew: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/006/992.html

    middle will tell you that they had plenty of advance warning, blah, blah, blah. But he likes to ignore that the secular settlers who approached the government months before the expulsion were screwed too and are still being screwed. Most people see them (seculars) as unfortunate victims since the main objective was to attack the rising power of the settlers and religious in general.
    W/R to money and orthodox institutions, it’s not that simple but that battle is also being waged. Some Yeshiva head rabbis came out against the expulsion and had the ‘nerve’ to recommend the same to their students. Rabbi Lavnon of the Elon Moreh settlement might be the first to have his yeshiva closed down. We’re waiting to see if the government will bother to try at this point rather than media balloon it is currently testing.

  • I see. So according to you, Josh, the IDF should continue to use students that receive the special PRIVILEGE of joining Hesder units and splitting their service between army and yeshiva, even when their yeshivas encourage them – using religious reasoning – to disobey orders and undermine the IDF.

    When you post that unbelievable crap about the IDF breaking laws, being a shadow of its former self, being unethical and immoral, etc., etc., you sound as they and their rabbis do. In fact, you at least continue to serve, whereas they are being advised not to serve, so you remain well ahead of them.

    As you know, after Chief of Staff Halutz (another non-Ashkenazi, for those of you keeping track), spoke to some of the hesder yeshiva heads recently, a few came out and showed support for the IDF. That should be a given and a natural response. Those yeshivas where the views are on the extreme should be eliminated from the roster of yeshivas that join forces with the army. Shame on them.

  • Do you read what you write? You want to collectively punish the yeshiva students for comments/opinions of the head rabbis? The yeshiva is not the private instituation of the head Rabbi. Oh, is there a law that would allow the yeshiva to be closed or is this another episode of the thought police?

    Disclaimer: I have miluim in December, and I really, really have no stomach to put on the khaki uniform this year for the first time ever. My wife will be in the ninth month, so I might actually have an excuse for my unit to use officially because I don’t intend to hide my real intentions either.

  • Change is good. It breaks up the status quo. New thoughts and ideas are what democracy is about. Let us not forget the rate of poverty in Israel.

    Here is a site I found that ensures food to people in Isarel.

    Meals4Israel.com is a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles. Our mission is to raise money for Soup Kitchens in Israel.

    Fact: Every day one out of five Israelis goes hungry. Fact: 618,000 of those are Children.