I heard an interesting counter-theory today at a memorial service for Rabin. The theory goes that the template established by Rabin was the one that Sharon has ultimately followed through on. It was Rabin that articulated the need for physical separation (later adopted by Sharon in the form of The Fence) and it was Rabin who identified some Jewish West Bank communities beyond the green line which would need to be included in Israel proper (controversially but rightly adopted by Sharon). Even the land-for-peace formula so despised by the right has been the one the has ultimately prevailed in the form of the Gaza Strip return to Palestinian control.
More recent developments in the Israeli Labour Party have been less promising. After acting in the national interest for two years as part of a unity government, a new leader has risen to the top and wishes to lurch away from government and to the left. Alarm bells should be ringing loudly about new Labour leader Amir Peretz, whose background lies in Israel's trade union movement, Histadrut. He seeks to transform the party away from the centrist party is was under Shimon Peres and make it into a dovish party of the left. Also, as the country continues to see its economy decline, tough fiscal leadership is needed, not the special interests inherent in the mix of labour and government.
For those with an interest in political history (and Ari's bumper sticker collection) would be curious to hear more about Amir Peretz's recent rise to power. In 2003 he ran against the Labour Party which he now leads, gathering his union friends and running as Am Echad, translated as 'One Nation'. The ticket was essentially a vehicle to get Peretz elected, which it duly managed to do. As can be seen from these stickers, Peretz ran a personal campaign against the major parties, lumping then-Labour leader Amram Mitzna in with Arik Sharon and Tommy Lapid (leader of the rising secular party, Shinui) in a slightly-bizarre campaign focussing on how awkward they'd look with his moustache:
Which just goes to demonstrate that no matter how high the stakes, all politics is ultimately personal.
This doesn't auger well for the Labour Party. The rumours out of Israel suggest that Sharon is likely to break away from Likud to form his own centrist party, and will leave Netanyahu (or possibly Silvan Shalom) to lead Likud. With Peretz leading the Labour Party, they will be relegated to a far-left rump, with most moderate left voters getting behind Sharon's new outfit whilst most of the right with stay with Likud. Interesting times ahead...