Israel, Politics

Amir Peretz : Israel's Next Prime Minister ?

Amir Peretz Represents“Tonight was a night of dreams — dreams of many citizens who have almost given up hope for being part of Israeli society.” –Amir Peretz on the eve of his election
Like some of the rest of you perhaps, I’ve been reading a lot about Amir Peretz lately. There are a lot of people talking about what his election to the head of the Labor party means for the future of Israel and so I’ve assembled a random sampling:

At Ynet news, Aviad Kleinberg characterized Peretz’s opposition as thinking Peretz is “the shvartze from Sderot“, but calculates that he is less embarassing than his critics in an essay entitled “Give him a chance”
Rogel Alpher wrote in Ha’aretz about a seemingly superficial topic – Amir Peretz’ Mustache
The right-wingnuts at the JTF are also extremely fixated on Peretz’ hair, writing “Peretz is a hopelessly evil Marxist traitor who has always intentionally worn the same mustache and the same hairdo as his hero, the late Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.” [ Note: As a reply to the JTF I attach the above photo to prove that in fact, Peretz used to rock a Gabe Kaplan-esque funky Jewfro quite unlike any style ever worn by Stalin. ] Taking a step back to get some perspective – Avirama Golan wrote an article in Ha’aretz called “Countdown to a new political turnabout” A quote: – “Circumstances are now similar to those that faced Israeli society in 1975, when sociology shifted. The political expression of that shift took place only two years later,” says Professor Daniel Gutwein, an expert in the field of social history at the University of Haifa.
In the Jeruslem Post, Caroline Glick goes basically apeshit and (with a dubious basis to make such a claim) predicts that “If Peretz becomes prime minister, there can be little doubt that he would take measures to effectively put an end to Israel as a Zionist state. ”
At Media Monitors, Uri Avnery isn’t making any promises, but notes that “In Hebrew, Peretz happens to [mean] ‘breakthrough'”
Finally, the unfortunately named Attila Somfalvi reported in Ynet News: With an awareness that perhaps his achilles heel is his relationship with Israel’s Russian-speaking community – Peretz is reportedly “taking intensive Russian classes, hoping to address immigrants from the former Soviet Union in their native language in the run-up to the general election”

One of the saddest things about the Israeli left and center left has been the historical absence of Eastern Jews from its ranks. This has resulted in Eastern Jews voting disproportionately for right wing, and special interest parties and bitterly hardened identity politics. I suspect that if nothing else, this signals a change on that front, and I hope it represents a lot more.

16 thoughts on “Amir Peretz : Israel's Next Prime Minister ?

  1. Mister Brown,
    I think its too easy of you to assert that the Israeli lefts snubbing of non-European Jewry resulted directly in the right-wing sympathies of most Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewry in Israel. You disregard key elements in their cultural and religious identity – religiousity being the most integral.

  2. I can’t say I didn’t take a little pleasure in seeing the takeover of the staunchly ashkenazic establishment labor party by one of ours. However, He has a way to go. PM? No way. He can take all the Russian lessons he likes, Israael’s 1 million russkies will not vote for a Moroccan with a high school education who espouses Marxist ideas (I’m not even going to discuss the Stalinesque hair and moustache). Some Sephardic Jews may vote for him but the majority won’t – his views on the Peace process are seen as too soft and he’s totally not religious. A quick survey of my Israeli Moroccan family confirms this. None of them are voting Labor. So… Peretz as PM? Not very likely.

  3. i disagree with that assertion. the mizrachi are more “traditional” than religious — like any mediterranean or middle eastern people — and their identification with the right was a result of the right’s acknowledgement of thier existence and, in turn, pandering. after the israeli black panther uprising — which was entirely secular — the right considered it a wise political move to take advantage of the mizrachi’s newfound political cohesion and vocality.
    it’s a similar story for the bedouin and israeli arab populations. i spoke to several bedouin in rahat who told me that they vote likud because likud’s the only party that ever delivered on its promises to them. or as one fellow i met in bat ayin put it — a former maoist and biker turned yeshiva bachur and bonafide right-wing settler — for all their talk about civil equality, the bourgeois israeli left (limosuine liberals or tzfonim) are only interested in having arabs scrub their floors.
    so the right took a bold move and played their cards wisely, and the left is still reeling from the mistake. there has never been a mizrachi prime minister, though, and if peretz works the crowd properly, he might pull their vote back around to the left.
    however, the average israeli moderate is doubtful: “no worries,” harry tells me. “peretz isnt going to be it. he is a joke and a mafioso and would cripple this country. he pulled a feiglin. had his cronies sign up for the labor party and vote in the primary. the man doesn’t have a shot in hell.”

  4. actually, one more point: i’m not all about peretz. he is shady as fuck. but what i do appreciate is the potential radicalization of the labor party. the reason the democrats suffered in the last two elections was because they refused to take a clear stand on anything. howard dean, though he didn’t win, helped the democrats define their stance. if peretz can at the very least help solidify labor’s platform, it would help them recover some public trust.

  5. I don’t know Peretz’s take on Zionism – I am more worried that he will trash the country economically by returning to socialism.
    He got where he is by basically employing economic terrorism – shutting down air and sea ports, etc. Well, this won’t work when he’s PM – who is he going to threaten? Our trading partners? The bond raters?
    The imposition of old-time Labor policies will chase investment away from this country, and weaken us further. And no Laborite will resist the financial candy on offer from the USA – further sealing our status as a vassal state, unable to conduct our own foreign or economic policy.
    In this sense it would be end of Zionism – effectively ending Jewish sovereignty,

  6. wow, and if it would be the end of zionism, i guess it would also be anti-semitic too!
    who knew that economic policies could inherently hate jews?

  7. Mobius,
    I agree with some of what you said, but again, i don’t think you can blur the line too heavily between “religiosity” and “tradition”, especially when it comes to sephardi and middle eastern jewry. its true that the right wing spoke to them directly and received their vote. This doesn’t mean their conservativism is directly in response to the left’s obliviousness. You’re taking a very Shohatesque view of non-European Jewry, one that I think counts their “tradition” as an “indigenous” “virtue”

  8. a few quickies that over simplify everything: the sephardim are more right wing not because the right adopted them but rather 1) the pre-laborites tried to make them white and 2) they were expelled from the arab countries from which they came.
    ck is right. peretz may be moroccan but he is regarded as an uncle tom.
    and ben-david is right. he’s gotten to where he is via economic terrorism (i like that expression!). he’s done enough damage as is via his strikes which have cause incredible harm to our country.
    radicalization of the labor party? no way man. the only thing radical about the party is the leader. he won’t be leader of the party very long. he’ll last until the election and then get booted.

  9. can’t say I didn’t take a little pleasure in seeing the takeover of the staunchly ashkenazic establishment labor party by one of ours. Well, don’t forget this time! I think Fuad Ben-Eliezer is a little hurt, frankly.

  10. He doesn’t have to win to accomplish a lot of good. I don’t anticipate that he will win either At least not in this upcoming election, though perhaps he has a shot in the next one after that.. All he has to do is marginalize Netenyahu and Shas, and he will do Israel and enormous service. I think the crook stuff is just a right wing ass covering meme. What is the evidence of him being a crook? Why don’t people disguss corruption on the right, like Omri Sharon? They do the same shit to Hugo Chavez. The people who do this have robbed Latin America of literally billions of dollars. I think he will take alot more mizrahis then CK would like to believe. The Russians are the only constituancy Nentenyahu will have.

  11. harry – Why not call it coercion, or something else ? It reminds me of the mis-use of the term ‘anti-semitism’ – once you begin to expand it to include other things (such as opposition to Israeli policies) it loses its meaning
    Terrorism means the use of violent force against civilians – once you expand it to include labor strikes, then it includes things that are widely considered to be legitimate tactics, and it loses all meaning

  12. Dameocrat
    Obviously, strikes are not equal to bombs; I probably wouldn’t describe them as “economic terrorism” either, which to my mind would denote tareting a country’s economy to bring it down; a goal I doubt Peretz has.
    However, it is true that under Peretz’s control of the Histadrut, Israel has become a world leader (if not the world leader) in strike days per year, a fact which has done serious economic damage, both directly and indirectly (for example, many shippers are hesitant to use Israeli ports, because there’s a significant likelyhood your merchandise may be stuck for weeks due to a strike, and therefore they don’t ship to Israel) to the country. And not all of those strikes have been justified, especially given the damage done.

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