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Peres in Barcelona. 'Only Sharon can bring peace'
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Haim Tzach
Sharon. A new backer?
Photo: Haim Tzach
Peres quits Labor
Legendary Labor leader Shimon Peres announces Tuesday resignation from party, says will support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ahead of upcoming elections. 'Only Sharon can bring peace, dismantle settlements,' Peres says
Vice Premier Shimon Peres is leaving the Labor Party, wrapping up a 46-year-long membership in one of Israel’s largest political factions.

 

The news surfaced during talks with reporters in Barcelona, where the veteran leader signaled his intention to abandon the political house he dwelled in for nearly half a century.

 

“The political framework is insignificant as far as I am concerned,” Peres told reporters in the Catalonian capital, where Barcelona FC and a Peace Team of Israeli and Palestinian players engaged in a friendly football match sponsored by the Peres Peace Center.

 

Peres hinted that he might be joining Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s new party Kadima, telling reporters that he will be backing Sharon in the general elections slated for March 28.

 

Peres hailed Sharon as the only man “truly capable of dismantling settlements and bringing peace.”

 

Sharon has apparently promised Peres a senior post in his next government. The former Labor Party leader has no intention to run for a Knesset seat in the upcoming elections.

 

The decision comes as no surprise with rumors that Peres intends on joining Kadima circulating for nearly a week, since Sharon announced he is leaving Likud.

 

The newly elected Labor leader Amir Peretz had failed to offer Peres a senior role in government if Labor wins the elections, prompting Peres to throw himself in Sharon’s welcoming arms.

 

Enlisting nation-wide support

 

Peres' move to Sharon's party marks the height of the political earthquake Israel underwent in recent weeks.

 

Meanwhile, the prime minister also held a meeting with mayors and heads of local councils at his Jerusalem residence on Tuesday, in a bid to enlist their support in his new party Kadima. The participants at the gathering expressed their deep dilemmas over the political rift between Likud, Labor and Kadima.

 

While not all those who attended the meeting at Sharon's house support his new political path, the PM's associates, who defined the meeting "an overwhelming success," estimated that at least two third of the participants will eventually join Kadima.

 

Overall 72 regional leaders attended the meeting, including about 10 who represented Arab and Druze local councils. The participants were affiliated with various parties.

 

Each of the local council heads can essentially become the head of local headquarters, a fact which guarantees us extraordinary deployment across the country, an associate of Sharon explained.

 

"In fact, we now have representatives within all the sectors – kibbutzim, moshavim, towns and the Arab public. All that remains is to invite other local heads to ride this wave. It can be announced that the party's municipal frame has been set up," he added.

 

Ronny Sofer contributed to the report

 

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