It was not a "tense and stormy struggle," as newspapers predicted. It didn't "teeter on the edge of explosion." It wasn't, in fact, even interesting. It was pre-determined, a foregone conclusion.
More than 1,000 central committee members troubled themselves to the meeting in the south of Tel Aviv on an overcast day to say indifferently and with a sweeping majority, "Da! Da Lieberman!"
Why should they leave the government because of Lieberman? Who is he, anyway? They were not convinced that Lieberman, as one of 25 ministers, would transfer Israel's Arabs, privatize Israel's economy and block every move toward peace.
Committee members displayed a grudging indifference toward the speakers who called to quit the government. From the very start, their heart was with Ben-Eliezer, Isaac Herzog, Ami Ayalon, Yuli Tamir and Amir Peretz, who called to stay in the coalition.
At the lowest point in his career, Peretz yesterday got an important boost from his party's most important body. He gave a speech that could have been written for him by Shimon Peres, with all the hackneyed platitudes about national responsibility and political initiative and the hopelessness of sitting in the opposition. He also complained about being attacked all the time.
Everything that took place on the podium in the Dan Panorama Hotel's banquet hall - the arm twisting and bullying, the conflicting interests, the ad hoc partnerships and unholy alliances - was with a view to Labor's leadership primaries due in 2007.
Ophir Pines-Paz, who led the opponents, and his group suffered a scalding defeat. Unless he resigns from the government today, he will have difficulty gaining the party members' confidence in the primaries.
The Fuad-Herzog-Simhon group recruited the majority in the internal wheeling and dealing and won. So did Peretz and Lieberman. Another winner is of course Ehud Olmert, whose coalition swelled from 67 to 78 MKs. Free of immediate political worries, he will leave for the U.S. in 10 days, leaving behind him a dwindled, polarized opposition.
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