A New Leader of the Israeli Labor Party?

A New Leader of the Israeli Labor Party?

By Adam Gonn, Xinhua News Agency

21.12.2010
Via Xinhua (Click for Original)
 
JERUSALEM, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas invited a diverse crowd of some 200 Israeli and Palestinians to his headquarters in Ramallah for a meeting on Sunday afternoon, the Israeli guests ranged from politicians from left to right as well as former army officers. However, one guest stood out from the crowd: Amram Mitzna.
 
Until recently, Mitzna was mayor of the small and impoverished Israeli city of Yeruham but he is better known for his days as head of the Israeli Labor Party from 2000-2003.
 
In addition, he is one of the main forces behind the Geneva Initiative, which presents itself as a model for solving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that has been created by Palestinian and Israeli politicians, academics and others intent on finding a way out of the conflict.
 
The initiative calls for the division of Jerusalem, the annexation by Israel of three main settlement blocks on the West Bank and a mutual recognition by both sides of the other's right to a separate state.
 
During the meeting in Ramallah, Mitzna praised the efforts of Abbas to find a solution to the conflict and commented on the current situation in remarks that led to speculation that he might be planning a return to national politics and, perhaps, to challenge the current leader of the Labor Party, Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
 
However, analysts that spoke to Xinhua said that while Mitzna might stage a comeback, it will not happen until there are elections, and even if he were to return it would not be to the left-leaning Labor that he once knew.
 
THE NEW LEFT
 
Dr. Neve Gordon of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said that the left of the 1990s is gone and Mitzna was not the right man to lead it.
 
"I think that Labor is scrambling and it might very well be on its deathbed. It is scrambling to renew itself. And often when you try to renew yourself, you go back to the old," he said.
 
Regarding the leadership qualities of Mitzna, Gordon said, "he is a nice guy but I don't think that he has any real vision and any real charisma that could lead Israel out of the despairing situation."
 
Gordon said Labor is not a left-wing party, either in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor its economic vision. He described the current economic policies of Labor as "neo-liberal" and said it now sits in the same government as the right-wing Israel Beiteinu party headed by its hawkish leader Avigdor Liberman.
 
"Labor is not left anymore," he said, "Labor is now sitting in the most right-wing government in Israel's history."
 
"I don't think that we should invest any hope in the Labor party and surely not in Mitzna," said Gordon.
 
NO CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP
 
Prof. Avraham Diskin of the department of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem also believes that Mitzna does not represent the Labor party any more.
 
Diskin said that Barak, the current Labor leader, is hardly in control of the party, "he has a very small group of people within the party that are loyal to him."
 
Additionally, the party itself is split between various groups with different agendas and perceptions of what the party is and what it should represent. Diskin said that even if Labor withdraws from the current government, the coalition would still have a majority in parliament and hence any departure would have little or no effect on government policies.
 
"As far as Mitzna is concerned, I think he is seriously considering returning to politics," said Diskin. "I don't know if he has reached a decision yet, and I believe that we will really know about that when new elections are declared. I don't see that happening in the near future."