Thursday’s deadline for political parties to submit their final Knesset lists showed that primaries don’t finalize everything.
Amir Peretz ‘s defection from his spot in Labor to Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party led the way to what Israel Hayom labeled in its front-page headline, “A political circus.” The paper describes Peretz’s move as “desertion in the 90th minute,” but Peretz defended his move on Thursday by blaming his decision on the situation in Labor. “This is the first time in my life that I have experienced hatred from within my political home. And over what? Because I spoke about peace, I pursued peace.”
Israel Hayom columnist Moti Tochfeld writes some surprisingly understanding words about Peretz’s move. “It’s hard to say if Peretz’s move was purely opportunistic, his situation didn’t improve, for the opposite is true… instead of undermining [Labor chairwoman Shelly] Yachimovich, as [Ehud] Barak did, he preferred to stay away and open a new political chapter.”
Not everyone is happy with Peretz’s move, notably including Yachimovich, who had some harsh comments for her one-time party leader and until Thursday her No. 2. As Yedioth Ahronoth highlights, Yachimovich responded by calling Peretz’s move “a new moral low,” and then went on to reassure her party that, “this move won’t affect us, it will make us stronger.”
Yossi Verter writes in Haaretz that Tzipi Livni’s party is looking like a collection of political misfits from other parties and asks, “Maybe the appropriate slogan for Hatnua, in the socialist spirit of Peretz, should be ‘Losers of the world – unite!’” Despite the party makeup, Verter reports that Hatnua and Labor were close to uniting, the hold-up being Livni’s insistence upon a rotating premiership with Livni being first, which Yachimovich refused. A source told Verter that she couldn’t accept it because “in the end, everything fell on her title, her dignity.”
Maariv’s election coverage includes a timeline of Amir Peretz as the new zigzag kid (sorry, Shaul Mofaz). The former defense minister and union leader had previously abandoned Labor in 1999 to form his own party, but rejoined in 2005.
Peretz wasn’t the only political change-up. With the final lists being submitted there were some other surprises as well. Maariv reports that Shas’s list also had a surprise: Interior Minister Eli Yishai in the top spot. The paper called the decision a “blow to Aryeh Deri,” the former party leader who recently returned to Shas, because he was left playing second fiddle. Deri, however, dismissed that notion by saying, “in our party no one is deserting or running away, titles and spots on lists are not important.”
Another party that has decided lists aren’t important is Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence Party. As Israel Hayom reports, the party has decided not to submit a list; it will not run in the next elections. The decision came after Barak decided to retire from politics. According to the paper, the party didn’t want to waste public funds on an election campaign that had no realistic chance of succeeding.
While the Independence Party has decided not to run, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that members of the Likud party did run… to the courthouse to stop the merger of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu. Upset with the finalized list, some members wanted to nullify the merger, which was approved by the party members last month, because they felt that they “voted on the agreement like a flock of sheep but without Bibi actually presenting it.” However the district judge who heard their case rejected the petition, leaving the list intact.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, perhaps foreseeing the madness that would ensue on Thursday, flew to Europe to meet with Israel’s allies. On Thursday he was in Germany but, as Haaretz’s reports, Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel didn’t see eye to eye on everything. The Merkel stated that, “We agreed to disagree on the subject of building in E1, but this does not prevent us from agreeing on other questions, like security.” The paper reports that Germany is not the only ally upset with the building; Canada is as well. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Netanyahu on Wednesday to say that Canada could not support the decision to build in E1.
Thursday also saw the return of riots in the city of Hebron and clashes between IDF soldiers and Palestinian police. Israel Hayom reports that the incident began while IDF soldiers were on a routine patrol in the city and were stopped by Palestinian police who told them they could not continue. The IDF continued its patrol and a fight broke out and quickly escalated in to a riot between the IDF and local Palestinians. The IDF used non-lethal riot control methods to disperse the crowd without injuries. The IDF spokesperson downplayed the incident saying, “We understand that this is a specific event that does not reflect a change in perception of Palestinian police conduct.”
Light it up
The holiday of Hanukkah starts on Saturday night and Yedioth provides a brief article about the festival of lights. While reminiscing a bit about potato pancakes and dreidels, the article provides the most information on those delicious jelly doughnuts that are the symbol of the holiday in Israel. The article reports that members of the Chabad organization are planning to distribute over 400,000 of the treats across the country. The 400 calorie treat might be too heavy for the IDF, though. Worried about soldiers’ health, the IDF has purchased a slimmer “mini jelly doughnut” in order to keep the troops trim.