An opinion poll in Israel suggests the decision by Shimon Peres to leave the Labour Party and support a new movement created by Ariel Sharon has boosted the latter’s chances of re-election.
Peres has called Prime Minister Sharon the most suitable figure for reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Media reports say Sharon will offer Peres the job of peace envoy if his new Kadima party wins the general election next March 28. Last month Peres lost the leadership of Labour, the party he helped found, to Amir Peretz.
One Jerusalem resident said on Thursday: “I think he must be very unhappy that Peretz took over, and I really foresaw that he would do that, because he has got to do something and it must be terrible after all these years.”
Another insisted: “He should have left a long time ago. As for his helping Sharon I think the jury is still out on that. Hopefully some of the people who support him will also vote for Sharon, Sharon’s rating is very high and I think most Israelis feel that Sharon is the only one who can continue to take us through these horrible times.”
Peres says he made the move because his country must come before his party, which quit the government coalition with Sharon’s Likud. Meanwhile Sharon says Israel intends to maintain settlements in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinians say a continued Israeli presence there will deny them a viable state.