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New dovish faction shaping up in Israel

New dovish faction shaping up in Israel

A group of high-profile Israeli politicians, intellectuals and business leaders have banded together to form a new dovish faction ahead of February elections, worried by polls that give hardline opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu a strong chance of winning.
The new movement hopes to breathe new life into Israel's moribund peace movement. But its gains could come at the expense of the mainstream Labor Party, which dominated Israel's political and economic life for its first three decades. Many of the members are leaving Labor, saying it no longer stands for social equality and isn't vigorously promoting a peace agenda.
"I hope the expanded leftist movement will become a replacement for the Labor Party," the Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted author Amos Oz as saying. "The Labor Party has finished its historic role, it isn't putting forward a national agenda and it joins any coalition."
The internationally acclaimed author was among 30 prominent Israelis who announced the formation of the movement on Friday. Other members include former parliament speaker Avraham Burg and Tsali Reshef, founder of the Peace Now movement. Both men are Labor breakaways.
Supporters are disillusioned that Labor leader Ehud Barak, who serves as defense minister in the current government, hasn't suspended construction in Jewish settlements or taken down wildcat settler enclaves.
They're also disappointed that Barak hasn't ruled out joining a Netanyahu government if his Likud party wins the Feb. 10 vote. Polls predict Labor finishing a distant third, behind Likud and the centrist Kadima.
Barak has not commented publicly on the latest fissures within his party.
Netanyahu says he supports the concept of a separate Palestinian state, but opposes the current U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He takes a hard line against ceding war-won territory and opposes partitioning Jerusalem, key Palestinian demands, and thinks talks should focus on economic matters.
The new movement is backing the Meretz Party, which currently holds five of parliament's 120 seats.
Meretz chairman Haim Oron told Army Radio on Sunday that the new movement was fighting "the parties of despair and apathy."
"There is a vast reservoir of votes out there that can change the face of Israeli politics," Oron said.
Oron's spokesman, Nissim Douek, said the new movement hopes to recruit disillusioned Labor voters, centrists who voted for the ruling Kadima Party in the last elections in 2006, protest voters and disillusioned people who didn't bother to vote in the past.
Oron wants to broaden Israel's peace camp because he understands that to significantly change Israel's political and economic direction, "he needs more political force than Meretz has with its five seats," Douek said.
Political scientist Arian Asher was skeptical that the new movement's appeal would extend beyond voters who currently back Meretz.
"The (new movement's) leaders think that Meretz has a stigma of being too leftist, of being too conciliatory" to the Palestinians, he said. He said he doubted the rebranding effort would be enough to change voters' perceptions.
Despite Likud's overall lead in the polls, surveys show an almost even split between hardline and moderate parties in the Feb. 10 elections, indicating that the coming vote could perpetuate a peacemaking deadlock.
Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks a year ago after seven years of violence.
Both sides set a December 2008 target for clinching a final accord, but have acknowledged there will be no deal by then. No breakthroughs have been announced.


Updated : 2021-10-26 04:04 GMT+08:00