Israeli Labor party head Shimon Peres is facing similar difficulties to those Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faced with Likud rebels. Labor rebels are angered, getting organized, and working to challenge his leadership.
Against PeresÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Stand, Labor rebels are pressing for an immediate halt to coalition talks with Likud, and are outraged over his Thursday statement, in which he combined a shy call for early elections with presenting himself as the partyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s candidate for the Prime Minister position.
Labor rebels consider the party leader decision to continue with coalition talks after the Likud convention voted to disqualify labor as a coalition partner as humiliating.
Many called for Labor to present itself to the public as an alternative to SharonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cabinet, instead of sitting at the wall waiting for SharonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s call.
Labor rebels will hold their first coordination meeting on Sunday. Many of the prominent labor MKs are expected to attend the meeting, including Matan Vilnai. Avraham Shochat, Ophir Pines-Paz, Yuli Tamir, Eitan Cabel, Danny Yatom and Ephraim Sneh.
Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who resigned from Labor’s negotiating team last week, will not be present, but is joining a rally against joining the cabinet, sponsored by a newly established group called ‘The Real Labor.’
Yet, Peres still enjoy the support of MKs Haim Ramon and Amram Mitzna. Both share PeresÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ view that labor should not be held responsible for the failure of Sharon’s disengagement plan.
The ‘rebels’ are also calling for Labor’s bureau and faction to meet to vote on dismantling the coalition talkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team. On Friday, Pines-Paz sent Peres a letter signed by 80 bureau members demanding a meeting.
Several MKs expressed frustration with the party leader.
‘We gave him a lot of credit for coming to rehabilitate the party, and instead, he stole it and is using it to realize his pathetic ambition,’ said one.
‘He took the party prisoner and is using it cynically. If disengagement is so important, why he wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give up the Foreign Ministry?’ said another.
On Thursday, Peres rejected mounting demands to dismantle Labor’s coalition negotiating team, and made it clear that he sees himself as a candidate for prime minister.
But, Labor MK Pines-Paz responded: ‘One can’t threaten elections without disbanding the negotiating team; words have to be accompanied by deeds.’
Vilnai and Shochat confirmed their desire to run for the position of Labor candidate for prime minister.
Practically, laborÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s call for early elections can only have an impact if joined by Shinui party.
Labor MK Dalia Itziq called upon Peres and Shinui leader Yousif Lapid to meet and jointly call for early elections.
Even as Sharon aids are affirming that the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon intends to continue with efforts to expand the governmental coalition, both, opponents and supporters of Sharon are calling him to not ignore the results of the Likud convention vote.
Sharon, who began a week-long vacation at home on Thursday, knows that a Likud-Labor-Shinui coalition does not stand as an option for expanding the ruling coalition.
Therefore, Sharon would likely be looking for a Likud-Shinui-UTJ, or a Likud-Labor-Shas, or turning back to a pure right wing-ultra-orthodox coalition.
All options, Sharon is left with, would likely force him to retreat, fully or partially, from advancing the implementation of the disengagement plan.