As members of the Labor, Likud and Shinui parties defected to join Ariel Sharon's new centrist Kadima Party this week, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz accused the prime minister of acting as though it were "the season for trading soccer players, where everyone moves from one side to another."
One of the biggest defections to Kadima (that of Israelís elder statesman and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres from the Labor Party) was anticipated Wednesday.
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.
Two of Israel's two main enemies, Syria and Iran, were rebuked by the United Nations Security Council within four days of each other this past week: a fact that one former Israeli ambassador said is no coincidence.
"Iran is Syria's ally and even patron," explained Itamar Rabinovich, Israel's former ambassador to Washington and chief negotiator with Syria a decade ago. "Iran is the senior partner in the relationship and it seeks to give Syria protective patronage."
International pressure was mounting on Syria this week with the release of an interim report by the United Nations tying Damascus to the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and another U.N. report charging that Syria was maintaining indirect military control of Lebanon despite withdrawing its troops last spring.
The latter report, prepared by U.N. special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, said Syria was using its agents in the army, intelligence organizations and Lebanese administration.