yossi peled 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Binyamin Netanyahu would have much preferred to be sitting next to a different ex-general yesterday and signing him on as the latest new member of the Likud, but Moshe Ya'alon still prefers the more peaceful environment of the Shalem Center to joining the political hurly-burly. So Yossi Peled was the best Netanyahu could come up with.
Despite leaving the IDF more than 15 years ago, Peled has succeeded in staying in the public eye without becoming an active politician. How has he done it? Mainly by being ready and eager to appear as a talking head on any and every TV and radio channel looking for a military expert to lend gravitas to the broadcast.
Peled wasn't one of the army's most noted commanders, but in an exceptionally long stint as OC Northern Command he established a reputation as a down-to-earth and populist officer, with an excellent relationship with the civilian population.
However, his aptitude for making friends didn't extend to politics. When he vied with the well-connected Ehud Barak for the post of chief of General Staff in 1991, only one minister voted for him.
In addition, he's proven capable of flirting with various parties simultaneously without actually taking the plunge. He was a member of the Likud's security advisory team while supporting the formation of the Third Way Party in 1994. In 1999 he was one of the founders of the Center Party but ended up supporting his old rival Barak and Labor in the elections.
Peled also has a checkered past with Netanyahu. After publicly supporting him in the 1996 elections, he expressed deep regret, saying: "Netanyahu is leading the country to downfall."
Now they're back together again. Why? For Peled the answer seems obvious: His civilian career has been a dizzying succession of widely varying senior positions in which he failed to leave a substantial mark. He headed electronics, manpower and petrochemical companies, was a regulator on commercial television, chaired various commissions of inquiry, was in charge of resettling former members of the South Lebanese Army and, for a short while, headed the committee planning Israel's 50th anniversary.
Peled seems to have realized that his only chance at regaining real influence is getting his hands dirty with parliamentary politics. The leadership vacuum within the Likud and the party's rising poll numbers make it an obvious target for an aspiring MK.
Netanyahu's motives are less clear. The Likud list was conspicuously lacking a senior defense figure in the last election. But now there is no election in sight, and the Olmert-Lieberman affair seems to have given the coalition a new lease on life. So Peled joining up now seems like bad timing, and whatever boost it might give the party will be long spent by the time the election rolls around. And the size of that boost seems limited anyway; few of the crucial younger voters remember Peled the general or are impressed by his record.
Netanyahu realizes this all too well, but he has other reasons for disrupting his Succot vacation to welcome Peled back into the fold. He hinted at them by saying that Peled had been promised no position, adding that "he will compete in the primaries. The only promise is that the best people will help to lead this country. More people will join from other walks of life."
Peled might not be the most inspiring first player on Bibi's dream team, but his signing and the subsequent ones that Netanyahu is promising are primed to create a buzz around the Likud. He hopes it proves that the party is not as gutted as it seemed six months ago, after its worst election result in more than 50 years, and is a viable political entity with its sights set on the levers of power.
But the recruitment drive is just as much for internal purposes. Netanyahu is sending a loud and clear signal to the party's big beasts - Yisrael Katz, Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat, Dan Naveh and a few others who didn't support him during the Sharon years and have continued grumbling against him over the last few months - that their time is up.
Bibi is once again riding high and he's bringing in a new team to clean up. The next Likud list will be voted in by party-wide primaries. The cozy old days of the Likud central committee are over and Netanyahu is already marketing his future team to the party's grassroots.
Come the primaries, whenever they will be, Peled might not even be on Netanyahu's preferred list, but for now he's the prototype of things to come.