Politicians go south for votes

Peretz greeted warmly in traditional Likud strongholds in south.

amir peretz 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
amir peretz 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Like birds flying south for the winter, politicians from Likud and Labor spent a cold October Wednesday swooping down on potential voters in the South of the country. Former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and many Likud MKs greeted hundreds of Likud central committee members at Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz's annual succa party on his ranch in Moshav Kfar Ahim. Netanyahu spent half an hour at the succa shaking hands and encouraging Likud activists ahead of his race for the Likud leadership. Katz used the event to advance his proposal to punish Likud MKs who vote for further territorial concessions without approval of the Likud central committee or a national referendum. He also called upon Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to promise not to remove the power to select MKs from the central committee. Likud leadership candidate Uzi Landau also went south, visiting evacuated Gush Katif settlers in temporary housing in Nitzan and outside Netivot. Landau blasted Sharon for allowing hundreds of settlers to remain without permanent housing solutions. "Something has to be done about these wonderful people who are living as refugees in subhuman conditions," Landau said. "A democratic country cannot abandon its citizens this way. Sharon needs to bang on the table and get things moving so solutions will be found for all these people." Landau said he would ask for a discussion on the fate of the evacuees in the Likud faction and the Knesset State Control Committee, but that the solution ultimately has to come from the Prime Minister's Office. Labor leadership candidate Amir Peretz said that Sharon's original sin was building the settlements in the first place. On a whirlwind tour of the South, Peretz was greeted warmly in the traditional Likud strongholds of Ashkelon, Gedera, and Netivot's outdoor market. "Sharon was the father of the settlements and when the bulldozers came to Gush Katif, they knocked down the places that were built at the expense of education and health care in the development towns," Peretz said. "A solution will be found for every settler, but Sharon should be compensating entire sectors of the population for years of neglect." Peretz accused the other Labor leadership candidates of giving up hope of defeating the Likud. He said that he was the only candidate who would remove Labor from Sharon's coalition immediately after the November 9 primary. "Labor's ministers will have to justify remaining in the government and allowing the Likud to perpetuate poverty," Peretz said. "Before the general election, it will be too late to say all of a sudden that nothing is right and lead a campaign against the Likud." Labor leadership candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer appealed to Tel Aviv District Court on Wednesday, asking the court to overturn a decision by Labor's internal court limiting the number of disqualified party members allowed to appeal their disqualifications to only some 9000. A decision is expected by Thursday night.