Sunday, November 13, 2005

Things That Go Bang In The Night

They say dreams last just a few seconds but feel much longer. Shimon Peres must be begging to know how long this nightmare is going to go on.

Just when you thought he couldn't lose (but wondered as I did why he's bothering to compete again), he lost again for the seemingly infinite time in his career. Sad really that the man who did give us a great deal will leave behind him a strong stench of popularity loss and failure. Shame really that such a well-respected statesman will be remembered most fondly as a loser. As Peres' daughter said on Israeli radio the morning after, "you always call me when he loses but never when he achieves or contributes greatly to Israel". She also expressed that "while I am fully with my father on his דרך (path), it appears that the public is not fully".

The question is why.

The answer is not too clear. It's not as simple as "Israelis can't forgive him for Oslo and the terror it has brought". If that was the case, why did the Labor party choose a man who appears to represent a stance even more to the left than that of the great Peres? In all likelihood, Peretz will not gain extra election votes by prancing around in Oslo shoes and suits. This is not 1995 and it is not August 2000. The electorate wants peace and quiet and it wants to help the Palestinians but not at all costs and not without security.

So why did it all go bang that night then? I noted in my pre-vote posting, that Laborites are fed up with being a mistress to the Likud. They are now ready to fight and to be an active opposition until its return to power. Peres represented a stable buddy system for Sharon policies and staying buddies did nothing for Labor. And then there's the age factor? Peres as Prime Ministerial candidate at age 83? Was he expecting to hold down one of the most mentally and physically challenging jobs therefore till age 87? It was just a damn shame that he had to be humiliated like this. His arm-in-arm with Bill Clinton at the Rabin concert last night just didn't exude the magic it might once have done.

Amir Peretz on the other hand may have been able to pull the country to a standstill over union issues, but he is said to lack the Peres-Sharon diplomatic, defence and foreign affairs expertise. His experience politically is thin.

As far as his win goes though, I'm glad. I am not normally a Labor supporter but I'm truly pleased to see that Peretz has been able to win a campaign that based itself very much on social issues. I do not agree with him that settlements cause poverty elsewhere (that is a bit too simplistic) but it is about time (!!!) that the poverty and inequality in this country was at the forefront of Israeli politics. For too long, terror and conflict has suffocated any faint hope of putting time, money and effort into repairing education, health services, employment conditions and the gap between rich and poor.
With this approach Mr Peretz may well attract support from unlikely corners. It is a change of direction that has also arisen in the Mafdal (National Religious Party) and it is recognition that there is more to Israel than Palestinians.

The Labor bang in the night might have shocked Shimon and the rest of us, but feel for the Jordanians who are not quite sure what struck them. I am hosting a video conference on International Terrorism on Tuesday where a US school and a Maale Adumim School will attack the issues together. This ruthless act in Jordan will add even greater interest to the topic.

There just seems to be no logic in the operations of this theory called Al-Qaeda. Attacking Arab brethren, killing Moslems at a wedding that includes Palestinians (who they claim to support!), Jordanians, Iraqis and foreigners. It all points to an inevitable increase in international terror in the coming months. It's the greatest indication yet that all states must commit to fighting it now and without fear.

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