- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

JERUSALEM Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna, a retired general, was decorated for heroism in two wars, but the battle he is best known for one he now seeks to resume is the battle to frustrate the political agenda of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Immediately after Mr. Mitzna announced his candidacy for leadership of the Labor Party last week, polls showed him to be far more popular among Labor voters than any other candidate, including the incumbent leader, Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
The meteoric entry onto the national political scene of this charisma-lacking ex-soldier reflects a longing on the Israeli left for a muscular dove who can offer a credible political alternative to the hard-line policies of Mr. Sharon.
Mr. Mitzna announced his readiness to enter into immediate political talks with the Palestinians, even with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, with the aim of achieving a compromise. He is, at this stage, given a good chance of winning the Labor leadership but a poor chance of defeating Mr. Sharon in next year's elections.
Mr. Mitzna in 1983 was commanding the army's military college when he shocked his colleagues by publicly protesting the policies of then-Defense Minister Sharon, who had ordered an invasion of Lebanon the previous year to uproot a Palestinian military infrastructure.
Mr. Mitzna called on Mr. Sharon to resign and submitted his own resignation from the army. However, he was persuaded by his superiors to retract the resignation and write a letter of apology to Mr. Sharon.
Four years later, Mr. Mitzna was heading the Central Command which includes the West Bank when the first Palestinian intifada broke out.
The conflict between his military obligation to put down the uprising and his own objections to the occupation of Palestinian lands led him to resign from the army after two years, this time for good, even though he had a chance of becoming chief of staff.
These stands had been preceded by displays of physical courage in the 1967 Six Day War, when he led an attack after his commander, alongside him in the turret of a tank, was decapitated by a shell.
In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, he commanded a tank battalion and had his knee shattered by a shell that killed most of his crew.
His current popularity is seen to reflect the public's desire for a fresh face. "The public wants a car without mileage," explained a political commentator on Israel Television.
In a rush of public appearances last week, Mr. Mitzna showed he has two formidable handicaps to overcome blandness and inexperience.
Although a beard could be expected to supply a bit of dash to a public personality, Mr. Mitzna's beard seems only to shroud further a personality hidden by an expressionless face and a monotone delivery.
He impressed no one by saying at a news conference: "Sometimes inexperience can be an advantage in a politician."
Commentators were unanimous in pronouncing that remark foolish, particularly in a country like Israel, where a prime minister is expected to deal simultaneously with a host of life-and-death issues.

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