Peretz gets mixed welcome in Jaffa

"Now you know his 'honeymoon' in politics is over and the real work has begun."

peretz 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
peretz 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Inside a small carpet store in Jaffa's flea market Sunday, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz was receiving a blessing from a local rabbi, but outside the cursing had begun. "Amir Peretz, go home! Don't come here and bring your lies," chanted nearly a dozen people as they followed Peretz on his tour of the market. Peretz's security guards kept a tight circle around him, allowing only pre-approved supporters in for a handshake or a hug. Peretz kept the conversations short, asking each person if they would vote for him and smiling broadly when they wished him well. The only notice he gave the hecklers was a quick shrug. "I am happy to be here and will be happy to help you," Peretz told his supporters. "Together we will bring about this social upheaval." "This is it, now you know his 'honeymoon' in politics is over and the real work has begun," said Rafael Assor, who has sold his wares in the market for nearly 20 years. "They all come through here, and they all have their phases. Let's see if Amir [Peretz] can weather it." The scene on Sunday could not have been more different than when, several weeks ago, Peretz visited Tel Aviv's Carmel Market. The two markets are often considered popular photo opportunities for political candidates. The Jaffa market, said several vendors, has more of a Sephardic and Arab flair, and should have been receptive to Peretz. "It was here that [Peretz] started to feel the bite. He even got nibbled by his own people," said Assor, referring to several Moroccan women who criticized Peretz over his defense policies. "I used to vote Labor and this is an embarrassment. When was he a general, when was he leading men in war?" said Merav Tamel, a local shopkeeper. "He would bring Israel's downfall." As Tamel spoke, a man donning a Labor Party sticker on his bag pushed his way between her and several reporters. The two began fighting in what was the first of many arguments as Peretz took his tour. In the end, however, only the supporters were left as Peretz entered the famous Abulafia bakery to make his very own pita topped with za'atar (hyssop). Afterwards, Peretz sped away in a weathered Volvo, appearing more like a "man of the people" than he would in the Mercedes he insisted on returning to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) last week. One local woman, who said that she would support Peretz "to the ends of the world," gleefully sat on the curb eating the pita she said he made. "It's just right, he has the Sephardic touch," said the Yemenite-born woman. "In the end I will vote for him because it's time one of us had a chance, no matter what he says or believes." On Saturday, Peretz told EU ambassadors that he would "skip over" the first stages of the road map. Under his leadership, Peretz said, the road map would be fully implemented within four years. He also said that he was opposed to dividing Jerusalem and the right of return.