Today, however, when the defense minister, who is also Labor chairman and "head of the peace camp," as he puts it, unveils a plan explosively titled "the new road map," it is greeted with yawns, shrugs and, with a wink, comments that it is "only political."
There is Peretz's destiny - anything he will do in the next few months leading up to the Labor primaries will be "only political." Even if it's an economic-social plan, a coalition crisis, the evacuation of an outpost or two in the West Bank or giving up the Defense portfolio.
Peretz has missed his chance - apparently for good - for whatever he could have done half a year ago, before or after the war, and did not do. His plan could have been more brilliant than the Oslo Accords and could have represented an even greater breakthrough. But with his present status among the public and with most of Labor's ministers and MKs turning their backs on him, the most he can do is to send his plan to the party's members as an election missive.
Yesterday, the headlines of Internet news sites emphasized Ami Ayalon's objection to Peretz's plan. Ayalon, who also initiated a plan called "the National Census," took pains to say that he preferred Tzipi Livni's peace plan, because it was more daring and far-reaching. Livni, by the way, says she has no "plan" but a collection of political ideas intended to accelerate a faltering peace process.
In any case, Olmert's government, not even one year old, already looks like an administration on its last legs. When the foreign and defense ministers are campaigning for private political initiatives without the prime minister's agreement (in Livni's case) and without his knowledge (in Peretz's case), they enhance the general feeling that everything is collapsing.
It would be one thing if something were going on, but nothing is. There was that meeting, and the kiss with Abu Mazen. But nothing has moved since then. True, a few roadblocks were removed, but then came that mess-up in Ramallah. The negotiations on releasing Gilad Shalit are being held up and everything seems stuck.
Olmert flew to China yesterday, as far away as possible from Peretz and Livni. On the way to the airport he received a phone call from Peretz who told him about the plan he was about to present to his party's Knesset faction. It's easy to picture Olmert listening quietly, nodding politely, maybe muttering some ironic comment. Every time he goes overseas, something annoying crops up to spoil it for him. Once it was his nuclear slip of the tongue, another time it was the IDF operation in Ramallah; and now Peretz is nagging him with this plan-shman of his.
Oh well, Olmert probably said to himself, in another few months the man on the other end of the line will be Ehud Barak, and he won't play such tricks on me - at least I hope not.