What's wrong with Amir Peretz?
...The new Labor Party boss is, to put it politely, a cross between Jimmy Hoffa and Cheech. A party hack who built his career mainly by establishing a power base in Israel's corrupt Histadrut trade union federation, Peretz got as far as he has in part through fortuitously pinning his political fortunes to the tailcoats of other politicians, and in part because the establishment politicians in Labor never took him seriously enough to neuter him politically.And while he may have condemned the suicide bombing in Netanya a few weeks ago, and called for more convincing security measures when that tragedy took place, as Plaut says, no, to say the least, he has never complained about the attacks the PLO and Hamas have conducted against the good citizens of Sderot, if at all, instead seeming to be more "concerned" with economy and money. And on unemployment in Israel:
Born in Morocco, Peretz immigrated with his parents to Israel at the age of four. He first came to national attention in Israel in 1983 upon his election as mayor of the economically distressed working class Negev town of Sderot. This was long before the days when Sderot morphed into Israel's Stalingrad, routinely taking the brunt of rocket attacks by the PLO and its affiliates. (Peretz has been notoriously absent from Sderot during those attacks, and has had almost nothing to say about them).
As the major promoter of an ever higher minimum wage in Israel, Peretz bears a major share of responsible for the country's high unemployment rate, caused largely by that minimum wage. Peretz also led the campaign against the employment in Israel of foreign temporary workers, who today are the backbone of Israel's agricultural and construction sectors.And while he may not declare any airport strikes if he were to be elected, he doesn't have to - he'll have the whole state treasury in his grasp, with direct access to all the moolah he wants, using it for little more than to pay his already overpaid cronies in the union committee he ran in such corrupt fashion years ago, and the public would likely end becoming empoverished.
Had Peretz gotten his way, both those sectors would have collapsed.
While mouthing socialist slogans about the working class, Peretz actually built his power base mainly on the elitist "unions" of highly skilled, lavishly paid professionals – i.e., feather-bedded workers in government-owned or sponsored monopolies such as the Israel Electric Company, whose "workers," including engineers and technicians, are probably the most grossly overpaid group of people in Israel. Peretz made common cause with the "workers" in this and other sectors – such as the seaports and airports – in which market competition is suppressed by the Israeli government.
Peretz consistently promoted the interests of the unionized overpaid professionals and semi-professionals at the expense of blue-collar workers – those hurt most by the frequent strikes called by the Histadrut. He single-handedly shut down Israel's airports so often that foreign businessmen were refusing to come to Israel altogether, not from a fear of terrorism but from a fear of getting stranded when the airports were shut down.
An interesting aside, Peretz's English is very poor, as this WMV recording (via The Muqata) could tell. And the Ha'aretz daily (via Jerusalemcop) reports that he doesn't want to trip the US to give speeches:
Jewish activists close to the Labor Party leadership said yesterday that several of Peretz's advisers are in favor of a New York visit prior to the elections. However, Peretz does not think it is a good idea.Yeah, but just how well did he do there? That aside, as the article says, he's not that well known there, which is why the Labor reps in New York want him to travel there.
Peretz last visited New York at the beginning of the year, when he addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Several years ago, Peretz delivered a speech at a meeting in Chicago of the board of directors of America's largest union.
One of the architects of the notorious Oslo accords, Yossi Beilin, said last month that Peretz would be willing to divide Jerusalem. Indeed, it could be possible, though Beilin most definitely. As some people have argued though, Ariel Sharon is more worrisome than Peretz. They could be right, which is one of the reasons why Sharon has made quite a few headlines lately.
Either way, the fact remains that even Peretz is worrisome, certainly due to his corrupt activities involving the Histadrut, and financially speaking, he'd certainly be reason for concern.
That said, he'd probably be more willing to participate in a televised debate with Benjamin Netanyahu that Sharon would. Yesterday, it was reported in Makor Rishon that Sharon refused to take part in a political debate discussion with Netanyahu. Which, now that I think of it, could certainly give a clue as to his own inability to give a convincing speech in a political discussion.