A Martian happening upon Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood Thursday would have doubtless wondered who the mustachioed man was, seated next to the impressive and sharp-suited leader who was speaking with such pathos. The word "I" was uttered 25 times by Prof. Avishay Braverman, Labor's glittering new member. Another few times he said "I led" and "I did," and then came the kicker: "Join Amir Peretz and me, and together, with all the members, we will change the face of the State of Israel."
The moment these words were spoken by the Ben-Gurion University president, the most sought-after man in Israeli politics, was the moment hit-lists were whipped out at several headquarters.
It was clear that the brilliant World Bank economist, who turned an insignificant university at the end of the world into a renowned academic fortress, did not enter politics for anything less than the Finance Ministry. If Amir Peretz forms the next government, Braverman will be finance minister. If Peretz joins an Ariel Sharon-led government, the president from Be'er Sheva will be the leading candidate after Peretz for a senior portfolio. After all, Peretz doesn't owe anybody anything. Not Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who ran against him; not Matan Vilnai, who backed Shimon Peres; and certainly not Peres. Haim Ramon in return for Avishay Braverman. You could say Amir Peretz made a good bargain.
Now, let's see who Sharon delivers. Avi Dichter we've mentioned, but Sharon's advisers are seeking more names to decorate the Kadima list. In this, Peretz and Sharon have a big advantage over Likud, which Thursday night, at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds, showed its real face: no interest, no audience, no identity. On the stage sat Benjamin Netanyahu, Shaul Mofaz, Silvan Shalom, Uzi Landau and Yisrael Katz. What connects them, other than party membership and the desperate, humiliating dependence on the central committee members screeching from the seats below?
At least some contenders for the Likud leadership intend to reunite Likud and Kadima immediately after the elections.
The eventual lists of the three big parties will also reveal a bitter truth for Likud: Kadima's first 30 spots will include at least 10 new faces; Labor's will have at least 15. The first 25 spots in Likud won't include a single new face.
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