Israel woke up this morning to discover that a revolution had occurred in the Labor party. Shimon Peres is to Israeli politics what Susan Lucci is to the daytime Emmy awards in the United States – always a candidate, yet no matter how deserving, never a winner. In yesterday’s Labor party elections, Amir Peretz, who is also the chairman of the Histadrut labor union, managed to pull off a victory, beating Mr Peres by winning 42% of the vote to Mr Peres’ 40%, with Binyamin Ben Eliezer trailing too far behind to even be noticed.
I have great respect Mr Peres. I share his beliefs and admire his courage. His ability to be a true statesman and a politician whose goal actually seems to be to make Israel a better, safer place for all its inhabitants (instead of the tendency of most Knesset members who only seem to want to improve their own lives) makes him a rarity in today’s political scene. The man has worked tirelessly on behalf of the country, promoting its interests abroad, and striving for peace. He has led an incredible life, and has created a legacy of hope, of optimism, of courage to fight for belief in the greater good, never giving up even when the odds are stacked in the wrong direction. Mr Peres is to be commended for his actions. There is no other politician in Israeli today who embodies the true spirit of politics. Whether one likes or dislikes his beliefs, it is hard to deny that he is an elegant, elder statesman in the truest sense, and that if more politicians behaved as he has, Israeli politics would be quite a bit more civilized.
Part of me believes that the time has come for Mr Peres to leave the crumbling world of the Labor party and focus his efforts elsewhere, as there must be many areas and realms in which his talents would receive the proper appreciation, given that he has been so dreadfully underappreciated in Israeli politics throughout his career. Then there is the other part which is reluctant to see him go. The Labor party is already in tatters, and despite Mr Peretz’ recent win, I do not see him or any other prominent party activists who are suitable to pull the party out of the mire in which it has been swimming for quite some time now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else capable of successfully leading the party, let alone leading the country.
All of this leads me to one final thought. If Mr Peretz should be elected Prime Minister, will he finally be forced to resign as chairman of the Histadrut, a position he has retained throughout his tenure as a Knesset member, or will he be able to continue to perpetuate this absolutely astounding conflict of interest, organizing labor strikes for the most absurd reasons and paralyzing the country he leads? I can hardly wait to see how the latest chapter in the soap opera known as the Israeli government unfolds.