“What happened here is an earthquake. We need to say things in the clearest way: It is a Land of Israel vs. the other Land of Israel. It is the struggle of the Mizrahi (Sephardic) vs. the Ashkenazi,” said Sasson Sara, oblivious to the rules of political correctness.
Sara, who owns a coffee shop in Sderot, said he spoke in the name of most Sderot residents.
His membership in the Likud party did little to lessen his joy at the prospect of Peretz’ election. This morning he wavered between exchanging jokes with costumers and praising the “big winner.”
Despite the deep respect he owes Peretz, Sara explains why he is a Likud member who will never vote for the Labor party. While acknowledging that Peretz will better address Israel’s social problems, he is cautious of his “utopian” attitude to the Palestinians.
“I personally cannot vote for him, because Amir Peretz has a utopian view of our relationship with the Palestinians and the peace process,” said Sara.
Peretz in Sderot (Photo: Tsafrir Avayov)
The celebratory atmosphere was also felt in the municipality where Mayor Eli Moyal congratulated Peretz for the victory despite their political differences. Peretz started his political career as mayor of Sderot. But things have changed a lot in the Qassam-stricken town that lies a couple of miles from the Gaza Strip: The barrages of Qassams on the town during the last five years of the intifada has had a political impact with a large proportion of residents supporting Likud.
'Even Likud needs to start changing its approach'
“There is no doubt that something happened in Sderot today. This victory is very important for us despite the political split between myself and Peretz. I certainly won’t cast my vote for him, but something happened in Sderot today and it brings us a lot of pride and joy,” Moyal said.
Moyal said that the Peretz’ victory will have an impact on the political system and will catapult dormant social issues to the top of the Knesset’s agenda.
“Even Likud needs to start changing its approach, and the time has come for social issues to be on the agenda and not only the firing of Qassams,” said Moyal who is a Likud member.
Moyal’s comments reflect the views of many Sderot residents, for whom the lack of job opportunities in the city is more daunting than the Qassams that fall in the town every once in a while.
“With all due respect to the firing of Qassams, there is no doubt that they are dangerous and very annoying, yet there are people here who have nothing to eat and are in very difficult social crisis,” said Haim Oliel, a singer and good friend of Peretz.