Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
Peres (L) with Prime Minister Sharon during U.N. summit
Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO

Back to opposition

There is no reason for Labor to continue supporting Ariel Sharon

After the disengagement from Gaza ended, Shimon Peres said ideological partnership between the Labor and Likud parties had come to an end.


The question remains, however, what should be Labor's political path when choosing a new party leader to challenge the Likud for the premiership next year.


And what does Sharon have to say on the matter?


"I am not prepared to compromise on my party. If the coalition falls apart and we have no majority for the government, and as a result we are forced to call early elections, then we will move up the primaries.


This, then, should also be the Labor Party's position once a new party leader is chosen in November.


Labor Party politicians have said many times that the only justification for remaining in a Sharon-led government was the disengagement. This is also how the public has understood the party's participation in the government.


At present, however, the party's continued presence in the Sharon government, whose entire focus seems to be the framework in which Ariel Sharon will run for re-election next year – with or without the Likud – is strange, not to mention bizarre.


What possible benefit is there for Labor to stick it out with the Likud?


It seems that the Sharon government's main interest at the moment is the budget. So Labor certainly has nothing to gain from staying inside. For even if the government adopts an "Ehud Olmert" budget instead of a "Bibi Netanyahu" one, it will certainly be nothing like the welfare package the Labor Party would surely offer.


'Sharon adopted Labor's political outlook'


The Labor Party does not need to go into elections on the issue of the budget, especially when it is a rope binding the hands of the political right.


There is no question that higher-ups in the Labor Party are asking themselves, "what would be so terrible about staying in power another year?


There would be merit to this line of thinking, if both our democracy and the Labor Party didn't need a strong voice emanating from the opposition benches.


In addition, many people feel they owe something to Ariel Sharon; after all, he adopted Labor's political outlook, and relations with him are terrific.


'Courage not always the opposite of stupidity'


But one must not forget that the current coalition is a group of opportunists, Labor ministers have no senior portfolios, except for Vice Premier Shimon Peres.


The party must begin thinking about national elections. There is no more need to embrace Ariel Sharon because of the disengagement, especially as long as he has no plans to replicate the plan in the West Bank.


The left has no place in this government. It must re-establish itself as a tenacious opposition party to bring down Sharon and Netanyahu. After choosing a leader, Labor must present itself as a viable alternative, fighting to regain the premiership.


Israel's left-wing is greatly enamored with Sharon - he, and the Labor Party, did what Rabin, Peres and Barak all failed to do - namely, he began the process of physically separating Israel from the occupied territories.


Now, when Sharon is busy trying to ward off a challenge for the Likud Party leadership and considering the possibility of a new political venture with Ben-Gurion University President Avishai Braverman and former Mossad head Avi Dichter, we must remember that Sharon has become a "symbol" that threatens to disintegrate support for both Labor and Shinui.


Only a strong Labor opposition can save the party from a repeat of the last election campaign, headed by Amram Mitzna. Therefore, this time will present the public with a party chairman who was elected after an extended, fair campaign, after conclusions were drawn following charges of fraud during our membership drive, and the party has presented serious ideas to the public.


Another year in power would be nice, but the Labor Party must remember that anything could happen with Sharon. He will not necessarily, and this is certainly true for his partners, make it to the next scheduled elections.


The Labor Party must take stock of itself. Courage is not always the opposite of stupidity.


Natan Raanan is a journalist and member of the Labor Central Committee


פרסום ראשון: 09.20.05, 17:03
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