Friday, November 11, 2005

Moroccan Jew might yet lead Israel

The prospect that Israel's next Prime Minister might be a Jew from Morocco becomes real with the surprise election as Labour Party leader of Amir Peretz, Histadrut leader and ex-mayor of the frontier town of Sderot. Here's what the Jerusalem Post had to say about his campaign:

"The campaign was first and foremost a battle for acceptance. Peretz began it as the quintessential outsider, like the youths who used to be sent from development towns and poor neighborhoods to kibbutz schools, but were never accepted as equals.

"As a politician, he was easily marginalized. A Moroccan-born trade unionist and mayor of Sderot at 31, like so many Sephardi leaders before him, he was deemed suitable only to deal with social affairs, while leaving the more weighty issues of defense and diplomacy to the generals who automatically traded their uniforms for cabinet positions."

Read Jerusalem Post article in full

Peretz heralds end of old guard - Daily Telegraph
Who is Amir Peretz? - Ynet News
Peretz knows both poverty and power -Israpundit (AP)
"Peretz, a Moroccan immigrant who grew up on the margins of Israeli society and whose formal education ended in high school, has turned Israel's political landscape on its head by taking control of the bastion of Israel's elite, with its European, or Ashkenazi, roots.

Moroccans and other Sephardi Jews of Middle Eastern descent turned their backs on the country's founding party decades ago. They felt _ and still feel _ disenfranchised by the Askhenazi elite that sent them to live in remote towns with few services, while siphoning off many of the best jobs for themselves and their cronies.

"And from this public emerges a proleterian prince who takes over the party and becomes its owner," said political commentator Daniel Ben-Simon. "And this is a sign that he will bring (to the party) not only the immigrants, but all those who are on the fringes and felt this party never spoke to them on their level, but always looked down on them."

"It's not an upheaval, it's a revolution," he said of Peretz, whose father used to toil in a Labor-backed kibbutz.

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