Veteran politician, urged by some to retire gracefully, decides to stay
around for one last throw of the dice. No, it’s not John Howard this
time, but Israel’s veteran politician and Nobel laureate Shimon Peres,
who announced this morning that he was leaving the Labour Party to support Ariel Sharon’s new centrist party.

It’s been a bad week for Peter Costello but at least he can be thankful we
don’t share Israel’s standards for political life expectancy: Sharon is
77 and Peres is 82. To match Peres’s record, John Howard would have to
hang on for another 16 years.

According to yesterday’s Guardian,
“Some Israeli newspapers have urged Mr Peres to retire gracefully,
saying that the voters have grown weary of him.” Truth is, they were never very fond of him; although he has been prime minister
twice he has never actually won an election.

Sharon will be pleased to have drawn Peres away from Labour, but he
could well be more of a liability than an asset if he were to actually
join Sharon’s new party, Kadima (“Forward”). Commentators suggest he
could just support it from outside, in return for a significant role in
the peace process if Sharon is returned in the election, now set for 28

Sharon will face strong competition from new Labour leader Amir Peretz
and from the still-powerful rump of Likud. Polls have been showing
Kadima winning strong support, but the question is whether that will
hold up once the novelty has worn off.