Photo: AFP
Peres with Sharon - announces support for Kadima
Photo: AFP

Peres for sale

From loss to loss, Peres' demands get more ridiculous

Following Shimon Peres announcement that he would support Ariel Sharon in the upcoming elections, Sharon aides said that as far as the could see, Peres' support gave them more than they bargained for: It "legitimized" supporting Kadima for many traditional Labor voters, and it helped Sharon stabilize his party in the center – a center in which Peres and Tzahi Hanegbi could coexist.


But Peres is what the Americans call "high maintenance." During Sharon's first term, when the Labor Party was the largest Knesset and coalition faction, this maintenance expressed itself by Sharon's special attention (and that of Sharon's right-hand man, Uri Shani).


They stressed Shimon's value as a senior coalition partner – and in practice, torpedoed every initiative Peres threatened to undertake.


These initiatives, it must be said, were few in number, and not at all ripe. The man described by Rabin as an "indefatigable underminer" today undermines with greatly reduced energy.


Full price for Olmert


Starting with the 2003 elections Sharon's power has been such that even Peres was forced to admit he couldn't offer him much, and the prime minister didn't have to pay much in order to get the beaten Peres to join his ranks after the later lost to Amir Peretz.


But Ehud Olmert? Tzipi Livni? They will have to pay full price if they hope to retain Peres.


This price includes, amongst other things, a commitment that is never really a commitment, statements that leave an opening for Peres' traditional threat: The day will come, dear leader, that the polls will not flatter you, and the vultures will be circling overhead.


And then, then who will you find to run as a candidate who will be your heir? Who will be the one, the ONLY one, who can rescue your party/vision/peace/the Jewish people from the mud? Shimon, of course.


Seizing momentum


Peres' position today is reminiscent of some of the Israeli players on some of the country's top basketball teams: More than for what they accomplish on the court, they are valued for the fact that they are not on other teams.


Campaign wizards, for whom one of their most important key phrases is "momentum," fear Peres' departure would reverse the process of legitimization – back to Labor.


Therefore, Olmert will be careful to give as much honor as he can to Peres, but it is highly questionable whether he will commit to giving him anything concrete. Such a commitment would arouse the ire of other senior Kadima members.


At his advanced age, Peres finds himself in a position in which everyone knows he must – and can – be bought. With honor, with attention, by singing his praises to attest to his value.


This will not solve the problem, because this need is also insatiable. But it's all that can be done. And from year to year, from one electoral failure to the next, the price of upkeep doesn't change. Only the honor it brings with it becomes more and more questionable.


פרסום ראשון: 01.09.06, 09:51
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