Likud, Labor don't differ much on peace process, Yuli Tamir insists

Tamir claims the difference between Labor and Likud lies in socio-economic issues.

yuli tamir 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yuli tamir 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
There "isn't much of a difference" between the Likud and Labor parties when it comes to the peace process and the Palestinians, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz's key political ally, MK Yuli Tamir, declared Thursday. Where the parties stand on issues of security and negotiations has usually been critical to determining who wins elections, but Tamir, staking out the Labor Party's position as the call for new elections looms, argued the parties have a shared outlook. "The difference between Right and Left now is not very significant," she said, referring to mutual support for the road map and talking with the Palestinians. "What [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon declares he will do is not very different from what Amir Peretz declares he will do." Tamir then took a dig at Sharon when she said, "I believe Amir will do it [what he says], and Sharon will or won't do it. I never know which way he's going to surprise me." In fact, she said, the Labor Party's strategy as it gears up to try to oust the Likud from power will be to stress Sharon's political flip-flopping on the settlements. "We're going to portray Sharon as someone who isn't incredibly honest with his audience," she said. "I think his voters feel he's not particularly honest." What does distinguish the parties, she claimed, was social issues: "The big, big debate is going to be the socio-economic one." The Labor Party platform, however, won't be extreme, she insisted, adding: "The main line would be free market yes, brutal capitalism no." Speaking with journalists at Jerusalem's Mishkenot Sha'ananim, she criticized her own party for not giving highlighting these issues until now. "We were, so to speak, a social democratic party with no socialist or social sensitivity," she said. Tamir, one of the few Labor MKs to support Peretz's bid to run the party, also criticized outgoing Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres for being "too much captive to Sharon." She blamed his and other Labor leaders' complacency towards Sharon for losing votes. "This is not a campaign and you can't win that way," she said. She contrasted Peretz with the Labor establishment: "He's very hungry for success. Unlike Shimon Peres and all the other leaders of the Labor Party who gave up the desire to win, he is really, really eager to win." Tamir described Peretz, with his Moroccan origins and development-town roots, as "the last chance for the Labor Party of breaking up a very close circle of people, and engaging other people." It was the Labor Party's "rejection" in the 1970s of similar up-and-coming politicians - such as Meir Sheetrit and Moshe Katsav, both also Mizrahi mayors of small towns - that caused irreparable damage. "They weren't wise enough to open the doors to the second and third generation of Israelis coming from the periphery. [That] moment, the Labor Party started to collapse," she said. For Peretz's part, she noted, he's willing to join forces with anyone who supports his platforms. That means a victorious Labor Party would contemplate forming a coalition with both haredi and Arab parties. And Tamir wasn't worried that being of the Left and potentially of a left-leaning coalition would torpedo concessions - such as withdrawals from the West Bank - that the right-wing Sharon might have pulled off. It will happen, she maintained, "if this is what public opinion says is the right thing." Despite her purported agreement with Sharon on the peace process, Tamir at one point said that "the only thing we have in common" is their birthday, February 26. The date is among the possibilities under discussion for holding new elections.