Breaking news: Peres to leave labor, join Sharon's Kadima Party

According to the Jerusalem Post (link to story above), Shimon Peres, longtime leader of the Israeli Labor Party and highly respected political figure, has decided to leave Labor and join Ariel Sharon's new Kadima party.

Rumors about this had been circulating since Sharon decided to break with Likud, but nobody knew until today that Peres would actually bolt Labor.

Notwithstanding the peculiarities of the deal that led to Peres' decision to leave Labor, his departure marks another huge shift in Israeli politics and a further marginalization of both of the two parties that, until a few weeks ago, had dominated Israeli politics for decades.

With Peres' departure from Labor, Sharon's party, now known as Kadima, which is Hebrew for "Forward," is virtually assured a solid, convincing, I daresay overwhelming victory in the March elections. Likud and Labor will both be extremely marginalized as both will be led by ideologues, Netanyahu on the right and Peretz on the left. Labor is especially vulnerable to almost total political collapse if Peretz refuses to join a Kadima government, as Meretz/Yachad, to the left of Labor, has already stated its intention to join Sharon's coalition should the elections go Kadima's way.

This is a huge moment in Israeli politics and could signal a major shift in the political dynamics of the conflict with the Palestinians and the relationship of Israel to the Arab world as a whole. I never thought I'd see the day when a militant hawk like Sharon and a respected dove like Peres would find themselves moving to the center and joining forces. I wish this new party the best of luck in finding the true center of Israeli politics, and with it, a pragmatic and reasonable solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

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