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EXCLUSIVE/ Amir Peretz: the vision of a Prime-Minister to be

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Autor: Marina Constantinoiu 27 Feb 2006 - 00:00
EXCLUSIVE/ Amir Peretz: the vision of a Prime-Minister to be


He might be the next Prime-Minister of Israel, if, on the 28-th of March, the electorate decides that his offer is more interesting. Amir Peretz, the leader of the Labour Party leader, doesn""t have a military career, but he""s ambitious and succeeded in all he intented to do. Now he wants all or nothing: the Power.

"Israel needs a Constitution"

Marina Constantinoiu He might be the next Prime-Minister of Israel, if, on the 28-th of March, the electorate decides that his offer is more interesting. Amir Peretz, the leader of the Labour Party leader, doesn""t have a military career, but he""s ambitious and succeeded in all he intented to do. Now he wants all or nothing: the Power.

The election campaign is orchestrated by a professional team, with American Stanley Greenberg as co-ordinator. Greenberg is well-known to the Romanian public as a result of his involvement in the Social Democratic Party (member of the Socialist International, as the Israeli Labour Party) and Adrian Nastase""s election campaign. Greenberg succeeded in making Bill Clinton President, worked for Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela and Gerhard Schroder, but also for the Israeli Labour leader Ehud Barak, who came into power in 1999. Now he works for Peretz. Were Amir Peretz to win the election and form a government, he would become the first non- Ashkenazi Prime Minister in Israel""s history.

Less than a month till the elections. Not much, in order to communicate his message. That""s why Peretz wanders across the country from North to South, talks to people, shakes hands, is, from dusk till down, in a round the clock campaign. That""s how I "caught" him: he was visiting the company that an Israeli of Romanian descent - Bruno Landesberg - has built, as one of the pioneers of the Israeli industry. Few teams of journalists followed his act, as they""re doing on a daily basis, in the newspapers, on tv and the radio-stations.

Mister Chairman, the last poll published by the Israeli media said that the Labor party will arrive second place, at the elections, with around 20 mandates in the next Knesset. Will we see the Labor in the government, in any coalition formulation?
I really can""t concern myself much with the surveys because I""m busy running a campaign to communicate our message to the Israeli people. The real issues here are not surveys but the fact that for too long, Israelis have had to live with governments that neglected growing social problems, like a failing school system and expanding social gaps, as they focused only on Israel""s security challenges and wars. I believe Israelis deserve total security - both physical security and social security - and all my energies are directed towards telling them that, so that we can see a real change of leadership and a change in Israeli society. The Israeli voters are largely uncertain right now and I know that when people start to really hear what we are saying, they will see how it mirrors what they have been thinking and we will see real shifts towards victory on Election Day. It""s far too early to talk about who will be in our coalition, but parties that are committed to fighting terrorism and pursuing genuine social and economic growth - which means growth that is geared at all Israelis without leaving the weakest behind, are welcome. Unfortunately, there are parties that do not have the track record to prove that they are committed to this agenda and I will not sit with those parties.

What is the most important promise you""re making to Israelis?
First of all, I will ensure Israelis the security that any leader of this country must be able to provide: I mean that I will fight terror with the country""s top defense experts and our uncompromising war on terror. I will not negotiate with an organization like Hamas that does not recognize Israel""s right to exist. I will quickly complete construction of our security fence. But I am promising something that no other can credibly offer, something that I have been providing the Israeli people for my whole life: commitment and investment in our society. I am promising to put the education of our citizens first, make it the highest priority for improving the future of our state and its people. I am promising to work against the scourge of poverty and the shameful economic gaps that threaten the livelihood of our middle class, who live in uncertainty even as the top percentile gets richer and richer. I will fight to restore opportunities and dignity to our poor, by providing the conditions for working people to earn a respectable minimum salary - a minimum wage of 1,000 US dollars per month. I will fight for the elderly, ensure a pension for every worker, work hard for students, and against the connection between money and power that prevents our society from thriving and moving ahead, together.

There are only a few countries where an ex-trade union center leader becomes a politician and a candidate for leadership. In Romania, we have some examples (members of ht Parliament and ministers). You want more: to become Prime Minister. Are you prepared for such a challenge?
When I think about who I am, that""s only a small part of it. I started life as an immigrant, the son of parents who worked hard and earned little. I struggled to improve my life and rose to become an officer in the Army. After that, when I saw that I could serve the public, I ran for office and became Mayor of Sderot, my hometown at age 30. I fought to improve the lives of others. I went on to become a fighter for pensions, wages and labor conditions. Now, I am fighting to improve the lives of all Israelis. Therefore, I see myself as on a mission greater than any one role I have played up to now - a mission to protect Israeli society from the twin threats of terror and social nelect.

Your party works with an American team of strategists (Stanley Greenberg, Jeremy Rosner). Greenberg succeeded with Bill Clinton but failed in Romania, with Adrian Nastase, he leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). Mostly because he tried to impose the American-style campaign. What""s the style he""s imposing on you?
Our professional team is not here to impose anything. The opposite - I am the leader of a very talented and committed team of professionals, all of whom are personally committed to my social agenda - which is actually the social agenda of the country. And in any case, our strategy is not about style - it is about how best to tell people the ideas I have worked for and will continue working for: the total security Israelis need and deserve.

This campaign is a learning process and I have learned from our professional team. But The Labor team is offering a government with different substance and I am willing to learn any new style or new actions to get the message across that I know this country needs to hear. The substance of our social and political agenda is what Israelis need to hear and that""s what the professional team is here to support.

You are the man who brought the Labor Party a social agenda. Are the Israelis interested in more than before in social matters than in security?
Israelis have always known that the society needs to be strong from within, in order to face the incredible challenges and threats we unfortunately deal with from without. Unfortunately, for too long Israel""s leaders have been telling them that they are incapable of providing a real, comprehensive, long-term and compassionate social program, as if this would come at the expense of the country""s security. I challenge that. I say, real leadership means both fighting terror, exhausting all options for advancing the political process and also fighting on behalf of society. It""s not that Israelis are interested in it for the first time, but for the first time, they have a leader who is talking about what they want to hear - and they are paying attention.

Ehud Olmert, Kadima""s leader, said yesterday that Israel needs to draw permanent borders and adopt a constitution to ensure that Israel remains a democratic and Jewish state. Do you agree with the idea? Which will be the Israeli borders in your opinion and what kind of Constitutional model shall you adopt?
Israel needs permanent borders badly - permanent borders that will stabilize the state, the region and ensure that we have a Jewish majority. It is pointless to consider borders that endanger our majority and thus threaten the democracy of our state, which we cherish. There is no question that this will mean giving up on the isolated settlements of the West Bank and finalizing the border in a way that ensures a Jewish majority, including in Jerusalem. Israel""s democracy must be protected by more than its borders - last week I gave a speech in the Knesset explaining exactly why Israel needs a Constitution as well, to anchor our values of social justice. We base this on the Canadian model, where human rights and protection of the citizens are top priority.

What are the portfolios that you""ll ask for, in the next government?
Of course when Labor and our team of experts is leading the government, we will be responsible for the most important portfolios: defense - with our top generals, admirals, intelligence figures and ex-Ministers - foreign affairs, and no less important - finance, education, labor and welfare, industry and commerce. And it should go without saying: Prime Minister.

SURPRISE-VISIT IN HIS NATIVE MOROCCO
He was born in Morocco, and his family made alyah in Israel in 1956. It""s not surprising that lately he paid a surprise visit to Marocco, where King Mohammed VI greeted him in his Royal Palace in Fez. Some Israeli sources said Peretz chose his native country to launch a new peace initiative for the region, in order to establish dialog channels with the Arabic world, especially after Hamas""s victory in the Palestinian elections. The initiative is aimed to involve the Arabic countries thought to be "the moderate forces" to activize the entire process.
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