Peretz: Sharon is a danger to democracy

As PM, Labor leader pledges to increase funding to develop the Negev, Galilee.

peretz 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
peretz 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz on Sunday assailed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a "monarch" who heads a one-man party. "I am not just a party of one man. I do not have the privileges Sharon has, to enter a room by myself and choose my party list," Peretz told The Jerusalem Post in an interview in his Tel Aviv office. "I think it is a great danger and a sign of a deteriorating democracy," said Peretz. "Sharon's party is concerned with handing out political appointments, but ultimately the Labor Party will have the best candidates to offer Israel, because they will look at us as a group and not as a party of one person." A spokesman for Sharon said Peretz's comments were "not worthy of a response." If Labor won the March 28 elections, Peretz pledged that his priority as prime minister would be to remove the illegal outposts in Judea and Samaria. "We need to immediately adopt the recommendations of the Talia Sasson report and dismantle the illegal outposts," said Peretz. The Sasson report, which was presented to Sharon in March, called for the removal of illegal outposts and deterrent sentences for those who established them. "I would also stop all funding to expanding communities there, and only continue with the minimum aid needed to maintain the communities," added Peretz. "Instead, we should put those funds into developing the Negev and Galilee, where we can expand opportunities for our youth." Peretz said that his ultimate focus had always been to stage a socioeconomic revolution. He described Israeli politics as a pyramid, with the prime minister's top priorities defense and security affairs. Peretz, however, said his pyramid would be turned "on its side." "My revolution shows that the pyramid has overturned. Social democracy is at the top of my pyramid," said Peretz, who has often touted the promise of "social security" during his campaign. Peretz, who has lived most of his life in the Kassam-battered town of Sderot, said that he is no stranger to the dangers of life in Israel. While the security situation has come close to him (one Kassam, he said, landed 50 meters away from his home), he does not feel that security should continue to dominate the country's priorities. Increasing the minimum wage and welfare benefits are two of the economic levers that Peretz said would push his revolution. "We compare ourselves to Western countries, but our minimum wage is a fraction of theirs," said Peretz. In Israel, he said, the minimum wage is $3.70, while the United States and Britain have minimum wages of over $5.50. "We need better services, to do more for the people," said Peretz. "We need to remember that, with capitalism, all that glitters is not gold."