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.