Shimon Peres, a man who has surely been a far greater success in the role of president than he was as a politician, just dropped what for him is something of a bombshell. If the report in today’s Jerusalem Post is accurate (and my only reason to doubt it is that it sounds so hard to believe), he has, like so many other Israelis, concluded that the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, known as “disengagement,” was a mistake. “Whatever will happen in the future, we shall not repeat the mistakes we made in leaving Gaza,” he says now. “It should have been done otherwise. I was for leaving Gaza. I consider myself as one of the persons mistaken.”
Of course, this can be read in more than one way. Aside from the objection from the Right, that disengagement would embolden Israel’s enemies and lead to a much worse conflict, there was also an objection from the Left: that Israel should be reaching negotiated settlements rather than taking unilateral actions. Peres’s ambiguous words let him hint in both directions at once. Peres is a master at this sort of thing.
But what timing! We are just days before Peres has to choose between giving the reins of coalition-forming, and probably government itself, either to Kadima or to Likud. It will be recalled that the whole reason that Kadima exists was that Ariel Sharon failed to get support for disengagement from within his own party, so he broke away to form Kadima, got Peres to come on board, and on this basis went ahead with disengagement anyway. In other words: Peres has chosen this particular moment to distance himself forcefully from the party with the most seats in the Knesset, the party that he himself helped create.
In still other words: It looks like he’s preparing his old friends in Kadima for the disappointment that his next move will bring.