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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The coalition expected between Kadima and Labor after the March 28 election got off to a rocky start on Sunday when Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz accused Kadima leaders of incitement that led to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination and Kadima candidate Avi Dichter called Peretz insane.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Peretz said that former prime minister Shimon Peres should be ashamed for joining a party with former Likud MKs like Tzahi Hanegbi, who were on the balcony overlooking Jerusalem's Kikar Zion a month before the Rabin assassination at a political demonstration against the Oslo accords in which a poster showing Rabin in an SS uniform was displayed.
"Many Kadima officials were part of the campaign of incitement before Rabin was assassinated," Peretz said. "Peres is acting as a fig leaf for a barrel of rotten apples who were part of what led to the horrible murder."
Kadima officials reacted with disgust to Peretz's statement. Peres said that Peretz should turn down his tone and that his statements proved his lack of experience.
Kadima candidate and former Labor Party minister Dalia Itzik slammed Peretz for "cynically using Rabin's name to make up for his own personal shortcomings."
The harshest response came from Dichter, who was a top Shin Bet official at the time of the assassination.
"To say that Kadima people were involved in killing Rabin is proof that he has gone crazy," Dichter said.
"This is a gross and intolerable statement from a party and people who have lost their minds because they are losing power. What, is Kadima a party of Palestinians? There are things that as an Israeli I find abominable. Even negative campaigns have limits. This statement crossed the line, I wrote it down and I will not forget it," he said.
A Likud spokesman scoffed at the fight between Labor and Kadima, saying "They are both left-wing parties that support a unilateral withdrawal and they are planning on joining together [in the coalition] after the election."
Several hours later, at a Labor Party rally in Beersheba, Peretz continued his assault on Kadima by attacking the financial policies of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Peretz began his assault by calling out Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
"Netanyahu has apologized to the people of Israel for the damage his financial polices caused, but his apology is not enough," said Peretz.
"Bibi [Netanyahu], we won't forget and we won't forgive."
Peretz then charged that while Netanyahu had apologized to Israel, Olmert refused to take responsibility for his involvement in the budget cuts.
"It worries me that we have an acting prime minister who feels he has no responsibility to the citizens of Israel," said Peretz. "For one full year Olmert was finance minister, but did he change anything? No."
Although Labor Party officials confirmed that talk within the party indicated that Labor would join a coalition led by Olmert, Peretz reiterated that he would under no conditions join a coalition with Israel Beitenu.
"If Kadima wants [Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor] Lieberman as its bedfellow it needs to be honest with the Israeli public and let them know what they are voting for - a drastic right-wing government," said Peretz. "Anyone who wants peace can't let that coalition form."