Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz made a less-than-rousing call yesterday for party colleagues to remain in the party. Speaking at a Labor Party Knesset faction, Peretz likened these weeks in the current national political scene to that of the two-month period in which football teams are allowed to trade and hire new players. He asked that Shimon Peres, in particular, stay with Labor, Peres' political home for decades. He did not mention Dalia Itzik by name, though her absence from the meeting raised some eyebrows.
Itzik then took the political establishment by surprise later that evening when she called Ariel Sharon and informed him that she was joining his party. Thus culminated 12 days of secret negotiations between Sharon's aides and Itzik. Her move apparently paves the way for Shimon Peres, Labor's leader for close to 20 years, to quit the party and join Sharon.
Itzik thus becomes the 18th Knesset Member in Sharon's new party, which now includes 14 former Likud MKs, as well as Chaim Ramon (formerly of Labor), Michael Nudelman (National Union), and David Tal (One Nation).
Even more surprising was the news that Shelly Yechimovitch plans to vie for a spot on the list of Labor Party Knesset candidates. She has said in the past that she is a Meretz party voter. Together with her announcement, She has already resigned her position at the Channel Two news organization.
One of her senior colleagues at Army Radio, Razi Barkai, said this morning that her move is admirable but "very risky," as "if she becomes a Knesset Member, then great, but if she does not, then she will have a very hard time returning to journalism - certainly not on the senior level she currently enjoys."