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ELECTION CATCH-UP

Labor's Peretz Slumps to 19 Seats

Likud's Netanyahu Charges Sharon Is Hiding His Medical Condition

Kadima's Sharon Corrals Avi Dichter

Sharon | Netanyahu | Peretz

The news that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is about to undergo a minor heart procedure has not affected the latest campaign polls. In Labor, party leader Amir Peretz kicked off his campaign with the slogan 'Labor, the time has come!' But questions are being asked after Labor has dropped from 26 to 19 seats in the polls. In the Likud, Bibi Netanyahu charges that Sharon is not telling all about his health and challenges the PM to face him in a series of TV debates. Sharon declines and has now recruited highly rated Avi Dichter, the former Shabak security chief, to help take on Netanyahu and Peretz.

:: IsraCast Audio ::
Avi Dichter

Former Shabak Security Chief Avi Dichter declares: 'Another unilateral withdrawal will jeopardize Israel's security'. Dichter has returned from the U.S. to climb on board Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party.

 

Kadima maintains its commanding lead with some 40 seats. Labor's Amir Peretz trails with 19 while Likud's Bibi Netanyahu at 16 has no place to go but up. With Sharon about to undergo what is described as a 'very safe' heart procedure, the highly touted Dichter will help carry the security ball for Kadima. On doctors' orders, Sharon has canceled all appearances outside his office as he recovers from his mild stroke. Dichter is also 'just what the doctor ordered'. He is articulate and telegenic and could be a formidable opponent for the Likud's Bibi Netanyahu for example who is challenging Sharon and Likud's Amir Peretz to face him in TV debates. However, Sharon sources say the Prime Minister will play the elder statesman and stay above the din of the campaign. Newly elected Likud leader Netanyahu charges that Sharon is not telling all about his health problems. Although Sharon can use his recuperation as a reason for evading TV debates, Netanyahu will charge that Sharon is afraid to take him on.

The Likud contends that Sharon's Gaza withdrawal is a sign of things to come in Judea & Samaria, if Sharon wins the election. Quoted by the Israeli daily Maariv, Dichter has scotched this claim.On the other hand, the former security official does not rule out the possibility of negotiating with Hamas, if the terror organization changes its charter calling for the destruction of Israel.

'It's not just the economy, -----!' Labor Party leader Amir Peretz has 'succeeded' in losing some 7 seats in the polls since his meteoric rise and subsequent slump. Immediately after his stunning victory over Shimon Peres, a month and a half ago, Peretz has slid from 26 to 19. Undoubtedly, the former trade union boss has put the social equality issue at the top of the entire campaign. But as important as the economy is, Peretz failed to realize it is not the only issue. How can it be in a country that faces Palestinian suicide bombers, Qassam rockets from Gaza and Katyushas from Lebanon not to speak of possible nuclear weapons in Iran? But Peretz has absolutely no experience in security and foreign affairs. Alon Pincus, Israel's former consul in New York, and now a Labor candidate, has put this to the party. Pincus has worked for Ehud Barak in the past. Labor's two former prime ministers Shimon Peres and Barak could have shored up the Peretz lack of experience. However, Peretz did not make them offers they could not refuse. In the terms of American politics, Peretz has left them out of the tent and ------- in. Peres has endorsed Sharon, while Barak is apparently waiting for Peretz to flop in the upcoming election. Hubris is an exacting teacher and Peretz may yet have to swallow his pride and induce Barak to join his campaign. He is going to need him to take on Dichter and Netanyahu.

David Essing

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