Shimon Peres Is Unsuited

Statesmanship requires first of all that the opposition behave like an opposition, and that is exactly the task that the public has assigned to Peres and to us during these dismal years.

As an ordinary soldier in the ranks of the opposition, I am asking Labor Chairman Shimon Peres to resign from his position as our leader, for reasons of unsuitability. He is simply not made for this position, just as he is perhaps made for the position of prime minister. Peres himself once explained his unsuitability when he gave his reasons for joining the first Sharon government. He said at the time that there was actually no point in serving in the opposition, because there you have to run after a journalist just to have your words appear at the bottom of page 14 in Haaretz. If Peres' international circle of friends - many of whom have served honorably in the opposition for many years - were more aware of how their Israeli friend regards the opposition, they would certainly be surprised, to say the least.

Every few months there are news items about Peres' subdued desire to return to the government. Sharon knows his friend well. He invites him occasionally, under conditions of secrecy, only to publicize the fact of the secret meeting a few hours later, and Peres for his part, for the nth time, ostensibly complains about the leak. There is no doubt that Peres has many positive attributes, but naivete is certainly not one of them. He goes to the meeting in the clear knowledge that its existence will soon be made known and will give rise to a wave of whispers and speculation.

An opposition is not an automatic part of democracy, nor is it a parliamentary game with a predictable conclusion. An opposition is first and foremost an alternative that must make every effort to bring down the government at every opportunity, all the more so in the case of a terrible government like that of Sharon. Peres does not exhibit any desire to bring down the government. He exhibits more of a desire to join it.

It's true that now even Peres is being more careful, he's pretending he has learned from experience, and until he sees facts on the ground with his own eyes, he won't join the government. But that is not the commitment required of the head of the opposition. He must declare that the Sharon government, and Sharon himself, are untouchables, and that therefore the Labor Party will not be seduced into joining them under any circumstances, and until this specific commitment is heard, Shimon Peres himself cannot be allowed to serve in his present position. And if the members of the Labor Party believe that Sharon's virtual political plan is worthy of support, we will all support it in the Knesset, and only in the Knesset, when and if it is submitted for approval (it will not be submitted in the foreseeable future).

Only three weeks ago, the Labor Party proposed a vote of no-confidence against the Sharon government, because of the serious suspicions that are hanging over Sharon and his sons; these suspicions that are now worldwide in scope - ranging from Austria to the Virgin Islands. What has been gathered so far seems sufficient to provide a solid indictment against the Sharon family even now. If Sharon is unfit for leadership from an ethical point of view, then even the evacuation of a settlement cannot purify him.

Some people are asking why it is so important to depose Sharon now, when he seems to have embarked on a new policy, only in order to make way for Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not exactly as pure as the driven snow himself. It's very important, because the corruption attributed to Sharon is more dangerous to Israel that all the other dangers it is facing. When the prime minister is suspected of corruption, the opposition cannot award him a kashrut certificate and purify him of any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Not only is ethical purity important - so is purity of mind. As we know, the Labor Party resigned from the Sharon government because of its economic and social policy. Since then, the examples of cruelty toward Israeli citizens, particularly the weak and the weakened among us, have only increased and worsened. The number of unemployed, for example, has only increased. And if a settlement is evacuated (it won't be), does that make this abominable social policy excusable? Is the Labor Party willing to be part of the government violence directed against children and the aged, the disabled and the ill?

If, God forbid, the Labor Party is seduced by power in the short term, it will perpetuate its status as a satellite party of the Likud, as it has been during recent years, and will drag the entire opposition along with it into a sterile parliamentary game, in which nobody has any confidence. We must replace the Sharon government, and it will be impossible to replace it from within; it can only be replaced from outside. The moment the Labor Party joins the government, Labor will be an indentured servant, because it will not be able to resign again.

So let Peres remain in his role as Labor Party chairman as long as he likes, but let him hand over the role of leader of the opposition to someone else, who is not willing to do Sharon's bidding at any moment, with the claim that statesmanship requires that he do so. Statesmanship requires first of all that the opposition behave like an opposition, and that is exactly the task that the public has assigned to Peres and to us during these dismal years.