A.B. Yehoshua on Labor

Acclaimed author and long-standing Labor Party member Avraham B. Yehoshua may have helped launch the Labor ideological team Wednesday, but his hopes for the election remain "realistic." "I'm a realist, I don't believe in chasing phantasms, and between [Acting Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and [Labor Party Chairman Amir] Peretz, I think the public seems to want Olmert," said Yehoshua. "However, I still think it is very important that people come out and support Labor so that we become a strong and vibrant member of the next coalition," Yehoshua told The Jerusalem Post followingremarks at a Tel Aviv press conference for the new team. In his address, he called poverty Israel's greatest problem. "We can't fix this unless Labor is a strong member of the coalition," said Yehoshua. While some Labor candidates have argued for the party to change its election strategy and campaign to become Olmert's partner, aides close to Peretz said that he was strongly opposed to shifting to a "second tier campaign." Yehoshua may have been the only member of the newly established team to voice doubts about Peretz's election chances, but there appeared to be very little that the team agreed upon. The members that presented the team, which contains 100 distinguished members of Israeli academia, often shook their heads or swatted at each other as they presented their views of the party to reporters. Noted thespian Yossi Alfi drew the particular ire of the team when he announced that "Ashkenazim cannot bring peace." "The time has come for Ashkenazim to understand that they can't bring peace," said Alfi. "When people say that Peretz doesn't fit the role of prime minister, that is racism talking. For years, the Ashkenazi dominated government has suggested that Mizrachim [Israelis of Sephardic descent] are warmongers who don't want peace. But that is nonsense because thirty years ago Amir Peretz talked about peace. Thirty years ago, he suggested we talk with the Palestinians." Alfi went on to suggest that racism against Peretz's Moroccan roots was fueling the belief that he was "not suited" to be prime minister. "An Ashkenazi like Bibi [Binyamin] Netanyahu could be elected to head of the government, to ruin the government, with no serious experience, and no one said he was a novice. But with Peretz everyone seems to think he can't take this position," said Alfi. Alfi's comments came following a report Tuesday that Labor had conducted a secret poll concluding that Ashkenazi party members had fled to Kadima because of Peretz's Sephardic background. Labor Party officials denied the existence of such a poll saying they had never heard of it.