As Peretz Abandons Labor Party, Israeli Political Center Implodes – OpEd


Nothing illustrates the political bankruptcy of the Israeli political center better than this image of Tzipi Livni, founder of the Ha-Tenuah Party holding hands with her freshest catch, Amir Peretz, former Labor defense minister and second highest vote-getter in the recent Labor primary.

The image of a former Mossad agent and ideological descendant of the Stern Gang canoodling with the former head of Israel’s labor movement, the Histadrut, is revolting.


It reminds me of a game of musical chairs in which each politician scurries from one seat to another seeking the biggest payday and best advantage for himself without regard to principle.  At the end of the game, there will be one player left with no chair on which to sit: it will be Israel’s center-left itself.  It will have maneuvered itself into irrelevance, thus leaving the ultrantionalist right in triumph, controlling all the chairs and levers of power.

During this press conference, Livni had the chutzpah to claim (with Peretz sitting beside her) that Labor didn’t invent the social justice movement. That in fact, Jabotinsky had called for social justice in his own political manifesto.

The reason Peretz is offering for abandoning Labor is that its current chair, Shelly Yachimovich is refusing to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian issue during the campaign; and she’s refused to rule out joining a coalition government with Likud.

That’s all well and good.  But does Peretz really think that joining with Tzipi Livni will bring Israel any closer to a peace deal with the Palestinians?  What did she and Olmert ever do that brought the country any closer to peace with the Palestinians?

As Dov Heinin tweeted tonight (and a number of my thoughts here were inspired by his thoughts on this), this development indicates the complete bankruptcy of the Israeli political center. As Yeats said: “It will not hold” against the powerful onslaught of the ultranationalist right.  When even former Kahanist Jeffrey Goldberg and Dov Heinin agree, you know the centrist movement is in deep peril.

In related news, the Jerusalem Post quotes Danny Ayalon’s father calling Avigdor Lieberman, “little Stalin,” for purging his boy from the Yisrael Beitenu list.  If daddy looks closely he’ll see his son actually bears a striking resemblance to Little Stalin, while Lieberman is clearly Big Stalin.  So ends an inglorious political partnership that began when Lieberman ran in the last election and needed a veneer of diplomatic respectability.  That led him into the arms of Ayalon, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.  They made a strange couple.  Though in truth it was hard to tell which one would embarrass himself, the foreign ministry and Israel more on any given day.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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