Clear the Air

Isaac Herzog can be believed. Perhaps he really didn't make such derogatory comments regarding Amir Peretz.

Isaac Herzog can be believed. Perhaps he really didn't make such derogatory comments regarding Amir Peretz. Yet anyone who knows the situation can understand how things have unfolded this way, and what they mean.

The sequence is familiar: members of the American diplomatic team compile data about Israel's political situation. To do so, they seek out various locals, preferably key players who are close to the power center.

Isaac Herzog
Daniel Bar-On

Sometimes the interpretations are distorted. Sometimes the quotations are accurate. Perusal of the document that includes Herzog's quotes creates an impression that U.S. diplomats made raw, less than meticulous use of interpretations offered by a sympathetic minister from the Herzog, Fox, Neeman law firm. It's hard to believe that Herzog didn't say any of the words attributed to him. But even if he wanted only to "reflect the situation," what he choose to report shows that there is a deep problem in the way he views the world.

This world view floats about like a huge iceberg in Israeli society in general, and in the Labor party in particular. But the country's leaders rarely look at it, and rarely expose its ample, contemptible dimensions. And when such exposure occurs, the public immediately shoots the messenger, be it the journalist who made the disclosure, the newspaper that published the quote, or the insulted Mizrahi politician, even when the politician isn't insulted.

The most absurd thing is that since he embarked on his political career, Amir Peretz has conducted himself in a fashion completely unlike the style of a sectarian, ethnic politician. His approach was evident at the press conference he convened this week to announce his candidacy for the Labor leadership; he spoke about democracy and peace, and referred to his concerns about racist legislation against Arabs, and damage to freedom of the press.

Even if ten percent of the WikiLeaks document quotes are correct, they make palpable the obstacles that Peretz had to overcome en route to his triumph in 2006. Under his leadership Labor won 19 Knesset seats despite the departure of Shimon Peres and his associates and the patronizing contempt displayed toward Peretz by many veteran Labor members.