While the health of the prime minister should not become a political issue, the health of the government under Ariel Sharon's leadership should, said Labor Party
Chairman Amir Peretz
during a convention Tuesday night.
"The prime minister cannot continue choking on the socio-economic responsibilities he has to the state of Israel," Peretz said to the hundreds of Labor party members who gathered in Jerusalem's
International Convention Center.
"Likud is sounding the slogan 'two states for the two nations.' But Mr. Prime Minister, we've never agreed to create two nations within our own country," Peretz said, referring to the growing gap between the wealthy and poor. "Poverty is not just about food, it's about education, culture, employment, and health. We are a social-democratic party that bears both the banners of peace and of social justice."
Peretz also criticized newly elected Likud Party
head Benyamin Netanyahu's
economic policies. He accused the former prime minister of being the most politically and socio-economically rightwing ideologist in Israel.
During the convention, Labor party members decided to maintain their current system of electing members, which dictates that all 117,000 registered party members elect their Knesset representation. A proposal to transfer responsibility for MK selection to the 4,000 central party members was rejected following strong condemnation from Peretz, Secretary General Eitan Cabel
and Labor Committee Chairman Shalom Simhon
Calling off primaries would erode the party's moral grounds and prevent it from criticizing Sharon's Kadima party
for being a one-man party, said Peretz.
"Primaries are vital to the democratic process," said Peretz. "What would we say to a party that can be burst by a single man moving to the left or to the right?"
The Labor Party is currently the only one in which candidates are elected by the general body of registered party members.
"You can't change the rules of the game in the middle," said Simhon. "More than 120,000 Labor members have registered and paid to vote, how could we change the system now?"