Daily Israel Report

Peres, Still Pro-Oslo, Headed For Another Comeback

The Labor Knesset faction convened this afternoon to debate the appointment of Shimon Peres as the party's Acting Chairman, following the resignation of Amram Mitzna earlier this week.
First Publish: 5/8/2003, 12:20 PM

The Labor Knesset faction convened this afternoon to debate the appointment of Shimon Peres as the party's Acting Chairman, following the resignation of Amram Mitzna earlier this week. Peres told his colleagues that he would like time to rebuild the party - "probably up to a year " - but that he would not run for the permanent position. All of the many possible candidates for the party leadership, including Barak, Burg, Ramon, and Itzik, are in favor of Peres' appointment, under certain conditions, except for Matan Vilnai and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. A final decision will apparently be made only next week.

Ever since Ariel Sharon's election in 2001, Peres has always been a strong proponent of joining a Likud-led national unity government. For this reason, some Labor MKs - and many in the right-wing as well - fear that Peres would lead the party back into the Sharon government.

Shimon Peres has served as Prime Minister or acting Prime Minister three times, for a total of less than three years. He served as Labor Party Chairman from 1977 until 1992, again following the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin in 1995 until Ehud Barak was elected in 1997, and then again for most of 2001 between Barak's resignation and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's election as chairman.

Peres recently said that he is "slightly worried" by the Road Map because of its *slow* timetable:
"In my opinion, it's a mistake to take one step, then look backwards and see if it's being implemented. We have to advance in an entire front, not just a line at a time."

Peres also continues to back the Oslo Process, speaking recently of the "unprecedented economic situation" it brought Israel:
"After Oslo, the Israeli economy jumped to levels that we have never known before..."

He also expressed optimism over the appointment of Abu Mazen:
"I know Abu Mazen, I negotiated with him and we signed the Oslo Agreement together in Washington. He is a serious man. This, together with the great change in Iraq, really opens a new opportunity in the Middle East. We can truly talk about the possibility of a New Middle East." A few hours later, an Al Aqsa Brigades Fatah terrorist blew himself up in Kfar Sava, killing one Israeli.