The renowned Israeli author Amos Oz has joined 30 intellectuals and public figures to forge a leftwing party in an attempt to defeat the resurgent rightwing Likud party, which is leading the polls.
But Labour, not the hardline nationalists in Likud, may be the biggest losers if the party succeeds in Israel’s elections which are due in February next year.
“I hope the expanded leftist movement will become a replacement for the Labour party. The Labour party has finished its historic role, it isn’t putting forward a national agenda and it joins any coalition,” Oz told the Haaretz newspaper.
In 2006 Labour’s leading light and Nobel peace prize winner, Shimon Peres, defected to join the hawkish Ariel Sharon, who led a breakaway group from the hardline Likud party to form the more centrist Kadima, which heads the coalition government.
More recently Labour’s chairman, Ehud Barak, refused to rule out joining a coalition led by a resurgent Binyamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party is ahead in the polls.
Revelations last week that Barak, who is defence minister in the current coalition government led by Kadima’s Ehud Olmert, had authorised the construction of 400 housing units and lots for Israeli settlers in the West Bank have further tarnished its left-of-centre credentials.
“The Labour party is a body that does not seek political life, and does not fight for its life,” said Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, who resigned yesterday and is expected to join the more centrist party, Kadima.
The new left of centre party hopes to attract disgruntled Labour supporters, environmentalists, Reform Jews and Israeli-Arabs.
The foreign secretary, David Miliband, arrived in Israel yesterday to begin a Middle East trip that will take in the Palestinian territories, Syria and Lebanon in the hope of promoting a regional peace plan.
But the trip has been overshadowed by Britain’s decision to crack down on products sold in the UK that come from Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law.
Britain recently circulated a note within the EU expressing concern that goods may be entering the country improperly labelled as being produced in Israel when in fact they have been produced in the West Bank.