Amir Peretz’s shock election as Labour Party leader has already lived up to the translation of his name in Hebrew: breakthrough. Throughout his campaign, Peretz vowed to review the policies of neo- liberalism and unilateralism with a renewed commitment to social justice and peace, including the struggle for that "second Israel" that the Labour Party has long forgotten: “We will reach out to the shanty towns, to the Sephardis, to the new immigrants and to the Arabs”. And speaking of the Arabs, what is the significance of Peretz election to them?
Peretz was one of the first members of Peace Now, a founding member of Israel’s premier human rights organization B’tselem and is a signatory of the 2002 Geneva Accord, a “virtual” peace agreement, which Israel withdraws from 98 per cent of the West Bank in return for the Palestinians’ practical renunciation of the right of return. At the Rabin rally, Peretz’s speech could have been delivered by Abu Mazen. “Only if we leave the occupied territories, halt the violence that erupts from there, will we halt also the violence in our midst. We need a moral roadmap, a roadmap for ending the occupation and signing a permanent status agreement”.
But Palestinians have a long experience with Israeli politicians who promise peace while they are part of the opposition and when in power they only practice war in government. They also know the odds are massively stacked against Peretz in prospect of victory in upcoming elections. Is Peretz then the Israeli partner the Palestinians have long sought? Or is he another false messiah in the mould of Rabin, Barak and Peres? However, by his victory, Peretz has already proved something –and not just to the Palestinians: that Sharon is not and will never be that partner.

Al-Ahram (Egypt)

The Peretz breakthrough”, by Graham Usher, Al-Ahram, November 23, 2005.