Friday, June 20, 2003

Laborious party
The line of the month from Israeli Labor Party Knesset member Matan Vilnai: "I'm convinced that after the Titanic hit the iceberg and began to sink, some people in the dining rooms were discussing elections for temporary chairman of the Labor Party ... What is taking place here today is a farce, the complete opposite of rebuilding and rehabilitating the party."

This followed a vote in the party for temporary chairman, after the resignation weeks ago of the former party leader, Amram Mitzna. Vilnai had sought a vote on a permanent chairman now, instead of delaying the process for a year. In his typical way, Shimon Peres won the vote by almost losing ... receiving 49.2% of the votes cast, after he had hoped to be acclaimed by a majority of the party.

The question is whether Peres will take Labor into a coalition government with Sharon. What a dumb question: for an answer realize that Peres' entire psychological makeup is directed at ensuring he remains in office so he can ward off old age. That was the strategy he adopted as minister in the previous Sharon government, where he couldn't have cared less about really advancing a peace agenda, as long as he could keep jetting around as a VIP.

Labor will form a coalition with Likud, it will sort of back the "road map", but it doesn't have a strong enough "peace core" in the party to hold Sharon too closely to the details of the Quartet plan, which will give the Israeli prime minister the cover he needs to make piecemeal concessions, but little more.

At every stage of the post-Madrid peace negotiations, Peres was never the high-priest of peace he liked to pretend to be; he was an often pedestrian elongation of the PM of the moment: he only looked good until 1995 because Yitzhak Rabin took the tough decisions and the risks; he looked mediocre after 2001 because Sharon gave him nothing, nor did Peres ask for anything; and under Barak he was unmemorable, because the PM wanted to hog the limelight. And when he became PM after Rabin was killed, Peres unleashed the sordid, bloody Grapes of Wrath operation on Lebanon, hoping it would win him an election. Instead he lost by a hair to Netanyahu because outraged Arab-Israelis boycotted him.

Peres is a sinister hypocrite and the fact that Labor should put its fate in his hands is a sign of how low the party has fallen. The result? Vilnai could be right: this could be a senseless final round before Labor sinks into the North Atlantic.

And who does one blame? That odious cretin Ehud Barak, who proved you could have a high IQ, murder people efficiently, and still be a basket case. Rarely has someone been able to do so much, and yet done so little.

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