Surprise? Not really. How can one be surprised by another failure by Shimon Peres the man who never lost an opportunity to lose. A revolution? Yes, definitely. Who would have believed that Amir Peretz of Sderot would be crowned as leader of the Labor Party?
Ariel Sharon's farm is very close to Sderot, but the distance between the two is as far as east and west, and the sun, as it is known, rises in the east and sinks in the west. It is very possible that the rise of Peretz spells the sinking of Sharon. In any case, he now has an opposition, and over time, an alternative, as well. Sharon's rule is no longer a supreme force, and out of the second largest party, a challenger has risen, finally.
In recent years, it has been as if Labor accepted the sentence to serve as a fifth wheel in Sharon's chariot. Therefore, the country's political life turned into one big masquerade ball, and it was impossible to tell who represented what. Labor set a world precedent: a former ruling party with pretensions about the future making do with the role of a tail. At least if it was a lion's tail. Halfway through the night, as the votes were being counted, the ball was abruptly ended, the masks were torn off, and now two worldviews are poised one against the other with unhidden faces. The public can distinguish between them and decide who and what it prefers.
I've known Amir Peretz for many years. He holds moderate political views ever since he was among the first in Peace Now. It wasn't easy, more than 20 years ago, to head a development town in the south and not hide the doves in your coop. Amir openly let loose his doves despite all the difficulties.
He also never has been ashamed of being a socialist, which for reasons of superstition is sometimes referred to as "social democrat." The local demagogues and all those who enjoy the benefits of the existing and corrupt system blast the socialists: What do those crazies want? That we live like in Cuba? That we go back in a time tunnel to the days of the Soviet Union, which shamed the very scent of "socialism in our time." Amir is not afraid of demagogues: no, he does not want to be like the poor and miserable Cuba; he does want to be like Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Holland and other countries, which unlike Israel did no tear up their social safety nets and did not open vast social chasms that threaten to swallow it.
There are attempts here, largely successful, to persuade people that the choice was seemingly sharp and decisive: either the carnivorous ways of Benjamin Netanyahu or his partners in the Likud and Labor, or a Bolshevik economy. Peretz is pointing to a third way: the entire world is not possession-obsessed America; there is an alternative, and a socialist in our day knows that well. All that is necessary is for the proper model to be chosen.
If Peres had won, then what was and who was would have been what will be and who will be. Now the horizon has opened, and there are signs of new chances. Peretz's political and social agenda is very similar to Meretz's, and it is possible that the similarity calls out for merging forces. There is no certainty that such a merger would be worthwhile electorally, but there is also no certainty that Peretz's election will lead directly to the prime minister's bureau in the coming elections, which are too soon.Peretz's election should be regarded as a longer term investment: Meanwhile, let the opposition get organized, gradually develop the alternative, and the day won't be far off that the regime is changed here. Sooner or later, the public will be fed up with the swinish capitalism that throws out old people and children, and will be disgusted by the "Jewish state" that lost its head and Jewish heart.
And now it depends first of all on Peretz, if he has the strength in a torn and divided party that eats its leaders, and if he wants to establish the front to save Israel. The initiative is in his hands.
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