Turbulent politics as Sharon divorces Likud


Turbulent politics as Sharon divorces Likud

THE ISRAELI government is collapsing in turmoil, forcing forward the
date of the next general election by eight months. The political drama
began when trade union federation leader, Amir Peretz, unexpectedly
ousted Shimon Peres as leader of the Labour Party, by a vote of the
party rank and file.

Jenny Brooks

Peretz then quickly moved to withdraw the Labour Party from Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon’s coalition government, which left Sharon without
a majority. Then came a second bombshell; Sharon decided to abandon the
right-wing Likud party that he helped create in 1973, to set up a new
party as a vehicle for fighting the coming election and then trying to
form another government.

A section of Likud views Sharon as a great betrayer, following his
masterminding of the recent ‘disengagement’ of Israeli forces from the
Gaza strip. Many in the party expressed vociferous opposition to the
withdrawal and Sharon has now calculated that he will place himself in a
better position by escaping a party that has become an obstacle to his

His newly created entity, named ‘National Responsibility’, is drawing
in other deserters from Likud and they are likely to be joined by
opportunist leading politicians from other capitalist parties
represented in the parliament.

Sharon’s aim would then be to lead a new, completely realigned
coalition government after the election, expected in March 2006, if his
party can gain enough support. The policy of a further Sharon-led
coalition would inevitably be to try to continue a neo-liberal economic
programme and to concretise the brutal unilateral separation with the
Palestinian territories that he has begun.

While a majority of Israelis have supported ‘disengagement’, the
election of Peretz to the Labour Party leadership reflects widespread
anger and distress over the repeated cuts programmes and other attacks
on living standards carried out by the government.

Peretz was elected by Labour members on the basis of arguing against
the most brutal pro-market measures, and for a return by Labour to a
more ‘social-democratic’ stance.

However, while he is not typical of the leaders of Israel’s largest
capitalist parties, in that he comes from a working-class, Arab Jewish
background, he has played a major role in holding back and betraying
workers’ struggles in the trade union federation and supported many of
the government’s anti-working class measures.

He has also come to the helm of a deeply divided and discredited
Labour Party which, posing no real alternative, will struggle in the
pre-election period to counter the momentum of Sharon’s latest project.