The Israeli political scene is undergoing a earthquake. Recently, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu merged his Likud party with the ultra-nationalist
party leader Avidgor Liberman to form a united right-wing bloc. Rumors are
spreading that former prime minister Ehud Olmert is considering entering the
race along with former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. However, these reports
neglect a key player in the next election, a man who could possibly shift the
entire electoral outcome – Shimon Peres.
More liberal Israeli
constituents are desperately looking for a promising leader to fight Netanyahu
and the emerging hawkish coalition.
Some prominent candidates exist, but
each has flaws that would prevent them from becoming prime
Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich is a rising star. Current
polls predict a significant increase in her party’s seats in the next coalition,
to over 20 seats. Her positions on socio-economic issues and her populist bent,
including criticizing the current tax code for favoring the wealthy, have
propelled her popularity.
Nevertheless, her credentials on foreign policy
matters and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are hardly as substantial. Her
first trip abroad as a Knesset Member, mainly to attend an international
socialist conference, was in August of this year.
Republican President nominee Mitt Romney visited Israel during the summer, he
met with many Israeli leaders but cancelled his appointment with Yacimovich at
the last minute, demonstrating her lack of sway in the foreign policy
Although socio-economic issues are important, in a country like
Israel where politics are dominated by security threats, the prime minister
needs stronger security and foreign policy credentials.
Ehud Olmert is
also a name that has appeared more frequently among political pundits for the
position. Unlike Yacimovich, Olmert brings a thorough background in security
matters and international affairs. He speaks fluent English, as former prime
minister met regularly with American presidents, and conducted intensive
negotiations with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
his term as prime minister was plagued by corruption charges and the
mismanagement of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He was recently convicted in a
Jerusalem court of breach of trust regarding a bribery
Furthermore, by the end of his term, Olmert was deeply
unpopular, and it appears unlikely that he would be able to regain public
support in such a short amount of time.
With such a glaring hole on the
Israeli Left, Shimon Peres is the most suitable candidate to challenge
Netanyahu. In June 2007, the Knesset selected Peres as President of Israel, and
he receives remarkable support from a wide spectrum of the Israeli
Peres has extensive security and foreign policy experience,
having served three times as Israel’s foreign minister and twice as defense
minister. He played a major role in building Israel’s secret nuclear program
with help from France and was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his work
in the Oslo Agreements with the Palestinians. He is deeply admired
President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of
Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, in June 2012, saying, “In him [Peres]
we see the essence of Israel itself – an indomitable that will not be
However, Peres is more than just a foreign policy expert. Peres
strongly supported the protest movement over rising social inequalities last
year, emphasizing that he is “very proud of the justified social protests.” For
many years, he has been a strong backer of the Israeli technology world. He
championed the electric car built in Israel along with stem cell
Yes, Shimon Peres is currently 89 years old. Yet Peres’ age did
not stop him from ascending to the presidency in his mid 80s. Peres is in
excellent health and regularly meets with international leaders.
continues to play a pivotal role on the Israeli political scene.
Peres has the unique combination of a strong background in security and
diplomatic affairs and a passion for socio-economic issues. While Peres has been
defeated many times in previous elections, his renewed popularity among the
Israeli public should lead him to reconsider running once again for prime
minister. As President Obama recently stated, “Peres is the true comeback kid.”
Shimon, for the sake of Israel and the Middle East, prove President Obama
right.Aaron Magid studies political science at the University of
Michigan. He previously lived in Israel, and has written articles on
Israeli politics for
The Jerusalem Post. He also studied Arabic in Fes, Morocco,
and in the Palestinian Territories.