Likud Party leaders decided Wednesday to unite in the face of Amir Peretz's election as Labor Party leader, a move that some fear could be a serious challenge if he draws votes from Likud's traditional Sephardi base.
Likud leaders stressed that their party must remain united after Likud primary elections that are expected to take place early next year. Not only does Peretz pose a potential strong challenge to their leadership, but Likud said in a statement that he has "radical plans, which would jeopardize Israel's security and economy."
Even as Labor voters went to the polls Wednesday to select the party's next leader, Israelis appeared to be paying more attention to speculation that there might be early general elections and that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might bolt Likud to form a new party.
There was concern, too, that a victory for Histadrut Labor Federation chief Amir Peretz (the strongest challenger to incumbent Labor Party leader Shimon Peres for the chairmanship) would precipitate early elections because Peretz had pledged to immediately pull Labor out of Sharon's coalition government.
Looking out at all of the men in the audience wearing yarmulkes at the Board of Jewish Education's conference room in Manhattan, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi said he knew they would understand when he compared his Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer as a "case of David versus Goliath."
As Ehud Olmert takes the office of prime minister in his own right this week with a coalition government ready to implement his withdrawal from much of the West Bank, debate is rising over the wisdom of such a move and his selection of ministers.
"This government is very weak and in trouble before it is even sworn in," observed Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University.
Israel's launch Tuesday of a satellite to spy on Iran's nuclear development program was seen as another step in improving its defense capabilities in the face of a renewed threat Monday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to destroy the Jewish state.
The latest threat from the Iranian leader came as Jews worldwide paused to remember the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the Nazis.
In his campaign to win election as the next prime minister, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz is stressing the economy and his goal of reversing Israel's growing rate of poverty and income gap.
But even his staunchest ally concedes he has an uphill battle.
"In Israel, unfortunately, people donít vote based on socio-economic conditions," said Ofer Eini, who in January succeeded Peretz as chairman of the Histadrut Labor Union.
In outlining their party's platform on future Palestinian relations, the leaders of Israel's three main political parties offered few differences this week as they resumed their campaigning following a three-week hiatus caused by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's crippling stroke.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer's selection of Harlem state Sen. David Paterson to be his running mate (the first such Jewish-black Democratic ticket since Paterson's father, Basil, ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by Arthur Goldberg 36 years ago) was seen by Jewish leaders as a move that might help the state's neediest.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly courts pro-settler nationalists in his bid for re-election May 17, some of his biggest American supporters on the ideological right are either abandoning him or saying they are open to other candidates.
Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider, here to run in Sunday's New York Marathon, said he met with Jewish leaders the following day to correct "prejudicial" reports spread about him by his political enemies.
"All of the meetings ... with ethnic minorities, with Jewish groups, with representatives of the Jewish community have been really successful," he told The Jewish Week. "It makes me happy that we could show them that there is no sign of danger, that there is a sign of hope for them because we are the power to enforce democracy in Austria."