For many, Amir Peretz was the great promise of this past political year. He instilled new life into the Labor Party, and offered a new agenda to Israel. He challenged the capital-governing elite, and offered a new style of leadership - a civil-social one. During a short political season, he created the feeling that despite everything, Israel had not entirely sank in a bog of cynicism. During his take-off, Peretz proved that even now, even here, there's a chance for a revival of values.
The promise of Amir Peretz evaporated the day he accepted the wanton offer of Ehud Olmert to become defense minister. Had he not accepted that Machiavellian offer, today he would have been a popular leader of the opposition, with a serious claim to the post of prime minister. If he were not tempted by the gilded promises of ephemeral power, Peretz now would be able to turn the superficial debate over the war in Lebanon into a serious discussion on the current values of Israel. Had he not taken the bad advice of some courtiers, he would be standing today on a preacher's podium and convincing the public that the simplistic ethos of privatization is what destroyed Israel's public sector, and is what eventually did the same to Israel's security.
Thus, the mistake of the Labor leader, who joined Kadima and took upon himself the Defense Ministry's compound, was the mistake of a lifetime. It was a tragic error, and it turned him into a tragic hero. The entry into the glorified office of the minister - where Peretz now sits alone, isolated and beaten - cut short his prowess as a warrior of social justice and turned him into a shadow of himself.
However, the tragic mistake of Spring 2006 pales in comparison to the lethal mistake that Peretz may make in Fall 2006. If he is tempted, once more, to opt for the gilded promises of power over his fundamental beliefs, it will be the end - both morally and politically. If he agrees once more to serve as a fig leaf for Machiavelli, he will be remembered as one who not only failed to strike Hezbollah, but also abandoned his values, forfeited his worldview, and turned his back on all of those who had put their faith in him.
The inclusion of Avigdor Lieberman in the government under the current circumstances is a horrific act. As some Labor leaders argue, his appointment in charge of strategic affairs at such a strategically sensitive time significantly bolsters the strategic threat to Israel. As others argue, Lieberman's appointment to the influential position of deputy prime minister during a systemic and governing crisis endangers the character of Israel as an enlightened state. The system of governance that Lieberman proposes and the bullying norms he represents constitute a real threat to Israeli democracy as we have known it.
There is no longer anything we can expect from Olmert. The man who changed his direction countless times in recent months proved that he is spineless when it comes to his identity. The opportunist in him will not prevent the adventurer from his way to the top. Therefore, the ball goes back to Peretz's court. Only he can still stand at the gates. Only he can still cause the political earthquake that will prevent Israel from willingly submitting itself to authoritarian politics and a disastrous strategy.
Amir Peretz is a secret admirer of Menachem Begin. In the depths of his heart, he believes that a day will come when he, too, will start a social revolution, Begin-style. Begin did not begin a revolution by betraying himself. He reached that point by his willingness to verge into the political wasteland, and perhaps even by falling on his sword. This is your moment, Amir Peretz. Save Israel and save yourself.
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