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September 01, 1989 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

eagerly awaiting the departure of Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Some observers
believe that Shamir would like to leapfrog
them, and turn the party over to the young
generation, but it is doubtful that he has
the power to do so. Still, in the immediate
post Shamir period, one or two will almost
certainly become senior cabinet ministers.
Thus far, the young Likudniks have been
able to avoid the open rivalries that
characterize the Levy-Sharon-Arens rela-
tionship — primarily because there have
been enough jobs to go around. But as they
get closer to the top of the party pyramid,
a hierarchy is beginning to emerge. Ronnie
Milo, who once charged that the CIA was
financing Peace Now, and David Magen, a
strong Sharon supporter, are considered
too narrowly partisan for national leader-
ship. Moshe Katzav, who is extremely
popular in the Likud Central Committee,
has shown little interest in foreign or
defense policy. Uzi Landau, whose father,
Hahn, was once referred to by Yitzhak
Rabin as "Menachem Begin's Sancho Pan-
za," seems content with the family tradi-
tion of spear-carrier. All four can be ex-
pected to play important roles in domestic
policy, but probably none is prime
ministerial material.
At this stage, the smart political money
is on four potential candidates: Dan
Meridor, Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Netan-
yahu and Benny Begin. All have ex-
perience in foreign affairs and defense, a
prerequisite for leadership in a country
obsessed by security. As the son of the par-
ty's founder, Benny Begin seems the
logical choice for the role of first-among-
equals, but he is a political novice who had
to be coaxed into public life; and some
observers doubt whether he has the
stomach for the kind of infighting
necessary to achieve primacy. Meridor, too,
is considered too gentlemanly for political
rough-and-tumble. This may be changing,
however; as Justice Minister he recently
recommended pardoning the members of
the Jewish underground who are still in
prison, an uncharacteristically partisan
No one doubts the ambitions of Olmert
and Netanyahu. But Olmert, despite his
party pedigree, left Herut (the precursor of
the Likud) for a dissident group under
Shmuel 'Pamir, and has only recently re-
j oined. And Netanyahu, who scored an im-
pressive success at the nominating conven-
tion last fall, may have peaked too early.
His popularity and self-assurance have an-
tagonized many of his contemporaries, and
they have already begun to circulate
"Netanyahu jokes" (sample: "Is
Netanyahu on a diet?"
"No, he looks thinner because somebody
let the hot air out.")
On the other side of the aisle, the situa-
tion is somewhat different. Unlike the
Likud's yes-men, Labor's junior politicians
tend to be Young 'Dirks. Yossie Beillin,
Avrum Burg, Haim Ramon, Amir Peretz

and Ashkelon mayor Eli Dayan are all far
to the left in the party spectrum. In part
this is because only Beilin, who serves as
Deputy Finance Minister, has any real in-
put into policy decisions. And part* it
reflects the fact that Labor, unlike the
Likud, has no real party orthodoxy to
adhere to In any case, the young Laborites
are a decade at least from becoming
plausible candidates for party or national
In the 1988 election, Labor brought in
a number of young Sephardic candidates,
such as Peretz, Dayan, Eli Ben Menachem
and Efraim Gur, but they proved unable to
draw working-class votes from the Likud.
This was largely the fault of Labor's boss-
dominated nominating process, which has
aroused suspicion among Sephardic voters
that these candidates are merely front-men
for the Ashkenazi establishment.
If Labor has failed to find attractive
"paupers," it has also been unable to pro-
duce its own generation of princes. In 1988,
Ya'el Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dayan, un-
successfully sought a Knesset nomination.
She was one of the few to try; the children
of former party leaders, such as Ben
Gurion, Golda Meir and Abba Eban have
kept a wide distance between themselves
and the party of their parents.
Once the army was the great recruiting

Born after the
founding of the state,
the new generation
of young legislators
are beginning to make
their presence felt.

grounds for young Labor politicians. Three
of its current cabinet ministers — Yitzhak
Rabin, Haim Bar Lev and Motta Gur —
are former chiefs of staff. But in the past
decade, the stream of military figures has
turned into a trickle. Since the Six Day
War, military figures have suffered a
political devaluation — recent Israeli
history has produced few war heroes. And
those who have sought to join have been,
for the most part, rebuffed. Before the last
election, three highly regarded former
generals — Efraim Sneh, OH Orr and
Yanosh Ben Gal — joined the party, but
none was included among its slate of
This points to Labor's greatest problem
in recruiting appealing young politicans: at
bottom, the party remains inhospitable to
rising stars. Recently, Yitzhak Rabin, who
has a gift for political put-downs, called
Yossi Beilen "Peres's poodle" and the
label stuck. Other young figures around
Peres have been disparaged in party circles
as "blazers," a reference to the preppy
clothes they wear. As a result, the party
has yet to produce a single youthful can-

didate of the stature of Meridor, Olmert or
Perhaps the most interesting of the
young politicos comes from a surprising
quarter — Shas, the ultra-orthodox
Sephardic party. He is Rabbi Arye De'eri,
a Moroccan immigrant who, although bare-
ly 30, serves as Israel's Minister of the
At first, De'eri's appointment caused
considerable discomfort among secular
Israelis, especially after it became known
that he had evaded military duty as a
young yeshiva student. But in office, he
has proven a sympathetic and surprising-
ly liberal figure. After half a year as In-
terior Minister, De'eri has won plaudits for
supporting the abolition of censorship on
plays and for his refreshing honesty.
Following the recent municipal elections,
De'eri pointed to the victory of a Moslem
Fundamentalist ticket in the city of Um el
Fahm as an example of growing extremism
among Israeli Arabs. But when it became
clear that the new mayor was not a fanatic,
the young rabbi did something almost un-
precedented in Israeli politics — he public-
ly apologized. In a televised meeting with
the city council, De'eri asked to be forgiven
for his earlier characterization. "I made a
mistake," he said. Many Israelis tried in
vain to remember when they had last heard
such an admission from a politician.
Although Shas is a minor party, De'eri
may well become the first of the younger
generation to be a major political figure.
Given the near stalemate between the
Likud and Labor, the small religious fac-
tions hold the balance of power. A dove
among hawks, De'eri believes in territorial
compromise for peace, and it is an open
secret that he would like to see the govern-
ment of national unity replaced by a Labor-
led coalition. Should such a configuration
emerge, De'eri will certainly play a signifi-
cant role.
As a rabbi, De'eri did not take part in the
Knesset basketball team, but he is clearly
varsity material. So are Meridor, Olmert,
Begin, Netanyahu, Katzav and Magen of
the Likud, and Beilen, Burg and Ramon
of Labor. They lack the charisma of the old-
timers — Ben Gurion, Begin, Golda, Dayan
and Eban — and the hard edges of contem-
porary leaders like Peres, Rabin, Shamir
and Sharon. Raised in the relative securi-
ty of the Jewish state, they are the first
generation of politicians without personal
knowledge of the Holocaust and the strug-
gle for independence, traumatic events
that shaped the country.
It is still too early to know what this will
mean for Israeli policy. At present, these
rising stars are still mostly marginal
players, and they are constrained by the old
rules of the game. But one thing is certain
— their time is coming Within the next
few years, followers of the Israeli national
pastime will discover who has been sitting
on the bench — a collection of substitutes,
or a new generation of superstars. 111



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