The Left

Interview with Histadrut leader

Back in 2003 I posted some comments about the state of the political Left in Israel, based mostly on my observations while living there from 1992 to 2000. Among other things, I wrote:

On behalf of the Likud-led government, the former prime minister and current finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to cut benefits for the poorest Israelis as well as salaries and pensions for civil servants. The Israeli labor federation, the Histadrut, has reacted militantly to these government policies, carrying out a series of strikes and protests, and threatening more. The Histadrut’s leader, the Morrocan-born Amir Peretz, is the leader of a small political party called Am Echad, which– alone among Israeli parties– puts economic justice and workers’ rights at the top of its agenda.

The 20 months since I wrote that is at least a couple of lifetimes in Israeli politics. Since then the Labor Party has entered a coalition with the Likud to support Ariel Sharon’s Gaza-withdrawal plan. And Amir Peretz, who has rejoined the Labor Party, is running for party leader in primaries later this month against (among others) the old Labor warhorse Shimon Peres.

Eric Lee of has interviewed Peretz and posted a translation on his website. While reading it, please keep in mind that Peretz is a loyal Israeli and– yes– a Zionist.

Update: The intriguingly-named blog “A Hot Chick Called Lakshmi” has some interesting thoughts, stemming from the Peretz interview, about how debates over national security can distort traditional concepts of “left” and “right.”