Peres rules out pre-election ‘big bang’ union with Sharon

By David Horovitz September 8, 2005

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres on Wednesday night firmly ruled out establishing a formal partnership with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to run jointly in the next general elections, essentially quashing speculation over a ‘big bang’ realignment of Israeli politics before the country next goes to the polls.

Peres, the vice prime minister, told The Jerusalem Post he had brought Labor into its current coalition alliance with Sharon’s Likud ‘for peace,’ and that the partnership was worthwhile only so long as the government was making real progress toward peace with the Palestinians. If it became clear that ‘Gaza first’ was ‘Gaza only,’ then the alliance would be over.

Asked what he and Labor would be prepared to do to help Sharon retain the premiership should the prime minister, as many believe likely, bolt the Likud in the face of Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership challenge and adopt dovish positions regarding the West Bank, Peres discounted the idea of a pre-election alliance with a new faction led by Sharon.

He made plain that he intended to lead Labor into the next general elections. When polling was over, ‘we’ll look at the election results, and see’ what kind of coalition was feasible, he said.

Peres’s comments come against a background of feverish speculation concerning the possible remolding of Israeli politics ahead of, or after, the next elections, with new alliances breaching the existing party frameworks. In the so-called ‘big bang’ scenario, a new middle-ground alliance would be created, drawing politicians from Labor, Shinui and the pro-Sharon camp in the Likud.

Peres was speaking at a meeting under the auspices of the Citizens’ Accord Forum between Jews & Arabs in Israel, also attended by five other Labor Party leaders and Israeli Jewish and Arab editors, which focused primarily on the status of Israel’s Arab minority. Ironically, the meeting was held in the ‘Sharon room’ of a Tel Aviv office complex.

Peres said Israeli Arabs were victims of ‘institutionalized discrimination’ in municipal funding, educational budgets and more, which required ‘institutionalized correction.’

His party colleague, Deputy Minister Michael Melchior, urged all Israeli Arabs to vote for Labor in the next elections, noting that the Arab vote would likely be worth 16-17 Knesset seats. Labor, he said, was best placed to ensure that discrimination against Israeli Arabs was corrected.

‘If we [the Jewish majority in Israel] do no ensure equality,’ said Melchior, ‘we’re not only nondemocratic, we’re also not truly Jewish in the fullest sense of the word.’

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