(Video) Labor party shocker: Newly elected Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz paid homage at the Jerusalem gravesite of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Thursday and vowed to follow in Rabin’s footsteps.
Accompanied by Knesset Members Yuli Tamir and Ilana Cohen, Peretz said, “On this day we say to him (Rabin): “We will not let peace die.”
"This is the moment to remind everyone of Rabin’s legacy,” he added.
Peretz victory speech (Video: Danny Dagan)
Peretz was greeted by hundreds of supporters chanting "here comes the next prime minister" as he arrived at Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv shortly before 6 a.m.for the official announcement of his victory.
The results of Wednesday's primaries were announced by party secretary-general Eitan Cabel: Peretz garnered 42.35 percent of the vote, followed by Shimon Peres with 39.96 percent, and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer finished the race with only 15.82 percent.
In his victory speech, Peretz made it clear he would pull Labor out of the government, saying he would consult with party officials to decide on the manner in which to inform the Prime Minister Sharon that Labor wants out.
“The Labor Party (will present) an alternative that will take power in the next elections,” he said
Basking in the victory, the new chairman also held out an olive branch to his main competitor.
“Shimon, I want you by my side,” Peretz said during his victory speech, and appealed to Peres not to "leave us alone."
“If not for me, then do it for the party’s sake; if not for the party, then do it for the country," he said.
Peretz pulls off huge upset (Photo: AFP)
Ethnic demons buried
Peretz also said the "number one" threat facing Israel is an ethnic divide between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, and promised to bury the "ethnic demon" as Labor chairman.
He also said the ethnic card has prevented a "social revolution" in the country.
“This is the moment the ethnic demon in Israel is buried,” he said. "Tonight, our hopes came through. This was a night of dreams, the dreams of many ordinary people who thought they had no chance to become part of Israeli society. Almost a million and a half citizens live below the poverty line. Hundreds of thousands of children have lost their sense of belonging to the country."
The new chairman also made an appeal to new immigrants to join the party, and vowed to raise the minimum wage, as well as wipe out what he termed "slavery" of new immigrants working for "manpower agencies."
"This is your real home. You are all working people, you work day and night trying to sustain yourselves with honor, to work day and night,” he added.
Peretz also took the opportunity to fire the first volley in the 2006 election campaign, striking out at the rival Likud Party and telling working class voters – the traditional constituency of the Likud – they had been abandoned by the right-wing party.
"They tell me that Likud voters will always remain Likud voters. That's not true,” he added. “Tonight thousands of Likud voters know that it was not them who left the Likud, it was the Likud that left them, a long time ago. The Likud abandoned them, humiliated them, sentenced them to unjust punishments, and created social gaps that endanger the future of the State of Israel.”
Peres appeal rejected
Loser Shimon Peres refused to accept defeat, saying there were "irregularities and claims of forgery" during the vote, and mentioned during a press conference that he wants procedures at several polling stations be investigated
Peres' legal team is expected to submit a complaint demanding claims of forgery and irregularities be probed, and campaign headquarters chief Moshe Cohen said he would work to have the results annulled.
Earlier Peres’ legal consultants, attorneys Guy Bossi and Ronen Aviani, submitted an appeal with Labor’s internal court demanding that three ballot boxes, including those in Sderot and Mitzpe Ramon, be disqualified, citing double and illegal votes. A similar complaint filed with the police was turned down and the ballot boxes in Sderot remained open.
Sources in Peretz’s headquarters, in turn, have made similar allegations against the Peres camp
But the Labor Party’s Election Committee rejected appeals, because representatives of Peres’ headquarters signed the protocols of all ballots.
Attila Somfalvi, Anat Bershkovsky and Moran Zelikovich contributed to the report