Nothing seems to be working for Amir Peretz. Not only did he fail in his leadership of Labor and prove to be deficient in his role as defense minister, but he also failed to eradicate the beast of inter-ethnic animosity in Israel. Less than two years after he declared the beast dead, it appears to have made a comeback, thanks to Peretz's own statements and actions. The defeated leader of Labor is so clumsy that even when he actively and bombastically destroys the beast, it returns to disrupt his rest as a result of his own actions.
The day Peretz declared inter-ethnic animosity dead was considered to be a major benchmark in the political life of the country: it was November 10, 2005, during his victory address after he defeated Shimon Peres in the race for the leadership of Labor. Among other things, Peretz said: "... at this movement, I announce to the general public: This moment is the moment in which the beast of inter-ethnic animosity in Israel has been buried."
A year went by and the beast lay asleep in its lair. Nine months later, and barring some light sneezing, it was hard to tell it was there. At least not around Peretz. But last Friday, the beast charged from its hideout and captured the front page of the weekend supplement of Yedioth Ahronoth. Peretz reinvented the beast and raised its head high so that no one will avoid its poison.
This is how Peretz told the public, in his own words and by his own initiative, in statements that were not taken out of context, that he chose knowingly and whose timing he selected: "There has never been a witch hunt in history like the one being carried out against me. I don't know if it's an ethnic thing or whether it's because I don't belong to the right circles, the inner circle of the tribe."
Elsewhere, he said: "I always defended the kibbutzim... Ideologically, I felt at home with the kibbutz movement. And now, the blow has come that sends us all back years. And this is not just any blow: It is a blow that places you in a weak spot against those in the poor neighborhoods and towns who argued that in Israeli society, there still lingers inter-ethnic animosity and racism. I did not agree with them: I fought against them and said that we will bury this beast. In retrospect, I was wrong. We may have tried to bury this beast, but on the other side, it continued to live, and it is vibrant in the soul of some of the best members of the Labor Party."
In response to a question from his interviewer, whether he felt that the old elites are back, Peretz bursts through the opening: "Undoubtedly, the gang from Rehavia and the kibbutzim have it easier in the struggle for a place at the top. The elites have not been upset as it had been thought. We are far from that. It was a problem to accept that fact when I was No. 1."
The conclusion that we are expected to make: Peretz was not a ridiculous defense minister and a failed national leader because of his limited skills, or because he was not suitable for the role he aspired to; he was a victim of the patronizing attitude of his colleagues in government, of the general staff officers, of those holding senior positions in the defense establishment, and the regular soldiers were contemptuous of him because they were motivated by racism.
What is inferred from this argument is that the human environment in which Peretz found himself upon assuming the role of defense minister, was one of Ashkenazi purity which in turn rejected the foreign element that was forced into it.
On what logical basis and factual evidence is this charge based? Like many party politicians before him, with utter cynicism and cool thinking, Peretz pulls the pin from the fragmentation grenade of inter-ethnic animosity in order to use it for clearing his way back to the forefront of the public stage. He is relying on the repulsive statements of two idle kibbutz members regarding his alliance with Ami Ayalon, in order to cash in on their impact among the more sensitive segment of the Mizrahi community, with the direct aim of inciting it. This effort deserves only scorn.
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