Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Israel After Sharon: "Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start the Fire' could be the soundtrack for what's happening in Israel--a frantic series of events that have dramatically changed the political landscape. Last summer's disengagement of Israeli military forces from Gaza and the dismantling of twenty-one settlements there and four in the northern West Bank was followed by the surprising victory of Histadrut Trade Union leader Amir Peretz over Shimon Peres to become head of the Labor Party. While Peres had been a loyal (some would say docile) partner for Sharon's Likud in a national unity government, Peretz--the first Moroccan Jew to lead a major party, former mayor of the southern development town of Sderot and firm believer in the creation of a true social democratic alternative to the free-market policies of Likud Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--immediately took the Labor Party out of the government. Unlike Sharon, Peretz believes there is a Palestinian partner for negotiations, and he considers the settlement enterprise to be a tremendous drain on Israel's economy and society. "