Monday, December 05, 2005

# Posted 6:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ISRAELI POLITICS WATCH: As always, from our intrepid Israeli politics correspondent -
Likud's dark horse, MK Uzi Landau has withdrawn his candidacy for Likud leadership and announced he will back Benyamin Netanyahu. With the withdrawal of MK Israel Katz from the race, there are now four candidates left: front runner Netanyahu, Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Moshe Feiglin. Take your pick, but my bet is on Netanyahu's victory. If that were the case, it would give Ariel Sharon something to look for, as Netanyahu and Labour leader Amir Peretz will re-enact their past sparring when Netanyahu was a neo-liberal finance minister and Peretz was an old Labour trade unionist chief. The two have already offered a taste of their future catfights at Israel's Business Conference in Tel Aviv, where the Prime minister took to the podium to invoke fiscal and political responsibility on his rivals - asking them to ensure that Israel has a budget ahead of the March elections.

Meanwhile, Palestinian terror organization Islamic Jihad sent one of his death messengers to a Netanya shopping mall, killing 5 and wounding dozens of others - a grisly reminder that Israel's electoral agenda will still be dominated by security concerns. Defence Minister Mofaz has ordered a series of responses (boom, boom and boom would suit me fine.).

Will politicians seize the events to score political points? If so, expect the right to point out that the Gaza disengagement encouraged terrorism, while the Left, always in need to show it has teeth (to say nothing of muscles) will probably criticise Sharon for having allowed political calculations to delay the completion of the West Bank security barrier. Speaking of the left and their security credentials, watch closely what they have been up to. Prior to resigning along with all other Labour ministers, Housing Minister Itzhak Herzog issued tenders for 350 new housing units in Ma'aleh Adumim, one of three major settlement blocs east of the Green Line that most Israelis would like to retain under a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Needless to say, Labour's new leader, Amir Peretz, approved the move. Not content to prove the electorate that Labour under Peretz will not be as dovish as depicted (Peretz is a member of Peace Now), newly acquired Labour star, Ben Gurion University President, Professor Avishai Braverman announced earlier this week that Jerusalem shall remain united under Israel's sovereignty. Settlements, united Jerusalem. Is Labour trying to regain the centre?

Emanuele Ottolenghi
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Fine reporting and commentary. Thanks.
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