Sunday, November 27, 2005

Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon

The drama now played out in Israel is perhaps the beginning of the last great effort of those from the founding generation of the state of Israel.

Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres share a common background in the underground organisation Haganah during the years prior to the founding of the state. They evidently forged a friendship that has lasted to this day.

For a long time Israeli politics was dominated by the Labour party and its different leaders. In the one way or the other, they all had their background in the ghettos of Eastern Europe.

It was David Ben-Gurion that picked up young Shimon Peres, who become very important in shaping the Israeli Defence Forces, and who should be credited with lots of the efforts to give it also a secret nuclear capability.

It was in 1973 that Likud was set up, and in 1977 it come to power under Menachem Begin, establishing a "counter-establishment" that started to integrate not the least the Jews with more of a background in the Middle East into the political system.

Although the warrior Sharon was key in Likud, there was always an element of distrust between him and the even more hard-line core of the party. It had its origins in the more militant Stern and Irgun armed groups, and relations between them and Haganah in the underground were not always the best.

Now Sharon is breaking away from Likud, and Peres is breaking away from Labour, with a new political group seeing the light of the day and intending to complete the work of creating a secure and free Israel.

They do this in a situation in which it is other groups that are taking over in Israel. No longer are the leading persons having their background in old Eastern Europe. Now, it's more often than not the Middle East, and further down the road will come the million or so recent immigrants from Russia.

It's still old Israel that is now regrouping and perhaps preparing for a true peace. But behind them comes a new Israel with sometimes different perspectives and values.