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Israel's Labor Party Chooses Election List

  • Robert Berger

Israel's Labor Party has chosen its list of candidates ahead of national elections on March 28. Labor could play an important role in reviving the peace process.

The Israeli election campaign kicked into high gear after primaries in Labor, the nation's second biggest party. Labor leader Amir Peretz, a former trade union chief, says the party's list of candidates for parliament will bring a new agenda.

"It is an important day for the state of Israel," Peretz said. "We will bring a social and economic agenda and change the priorities of the country."

But not all members believe that is the agenda Labor needs to return to power as the ruling party. Labor activist Alon Pinkas says it is the wrong message at the wrong time.

"As important, critical and [urgent] as social issues are, you have to deal with the Palestinian issue, you have to deal with Syria, the Iranian nuclear program is not some kind of a media spin, it actually exists," he said.

Pinkas adds it is those issues that concern security-minded Israelis.

"And you cannot assume that someone else will take care of it while you deal with minimum wage and then expect to win more mandates," he said.

According to the polls, Labor is way behind the centrist Kadima party, which was led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon until his massive stroke two weeks ago that left him in a coma. Kadima has capitalized on Mr. Sharon's legacy, and polls show it will win about 43 seats in the 120-member parliament, compared to just 20 seats for Labor.

But Labor could play a key role in reviving peace talks with the Palestinians because it is a likely coalition partner with Kadima. In 1993, Labor leaders signed the historic Oslo Accords, leading to Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A Kadima-Labor coalition is expected to push ahead with Israeli withdrawals from parts of the West Bank following the pullout from Gaza last August.

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