Photo: Yaron Brenner
Peres and Peretz - friends again
Photo: Yaron Brenner
Photo: AFP
Peretz celebrates victory
Photo: AFP

Peres pledges to back Peretz

Vice Premier Peres meets with new Labor party leader Peretz, says it’s time to ‘look to the future and work together’; earlier, Peretz told Ynet he plans to win 30 Knesset seats in upcoming elections

Labor party reconciliation: Vice Premier Shimon Peres met with newly elected Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz Friday and pledged to back Labor’s new leader in the run-up to the next general elections.


At the beginning of the meeting, Peres said: "I played a part in bringing Amir to the party and I’ll do everything for Labor to be rewarded. We need to look to the future and work together.”


Addressing talk about possible retirement, Peres said he would like to take a few days off to consider the matter, but noted that “in any case I promise to contribute to the country." Peretz, for his part, said he would “do everything so Peres stands by me.” Peres meanwhile said he would back Peretz’ moves, even if that meant quitting the government.


Sources close to Peres estimated Friday he would not be quitting politics following his Labor party defeat. “He needs a few days to relax, rest, and digest what happened, but at this time it appears he won’t be retiring, but rather, working closely with Amir Peretz.


Better late than never


A day after Peretz won the Labor party primaries, Peres called the newly elected chairman to congratulate him on his win and said he will “do everything” to ensure a Peretz win in the upcoming general elections.


Peretz replied by saying this was the most important phone call he ever received. In an earlier interview to Ynet, Peretz said he could understand the difficulty Peres was encountering in calling to offer his congratulations.


Friday morning, the Labor faction held its first meeting under the leadership of Peretz. The session was opened in a good atmosphere, with Peretz declaring “we’ll turn the existing atmosphere to an electoral asset.”


Peres himself chose to skip the meeting, as expected, as did ministers Dalia Itzik and Shalom Simhon.


Turning to his fellow party members, Peretz said: “I hope you will do whatever is possible to give me credit for the moves I want to lead. If they don’t succeed, I’ll be paying the price.”


“We had a tough internal struggle, but it’s behind us,” Peretz added. “We need to use the time we have to go door-to-door in order to prove we’re an alternative (to Likud). I don’t intend to let anyone rest and I promise no party member will be working more than me.”


Addressing his talk with Peres, Peretz said he was very excited.


“I was waiting for this call for all those hours after being elected,” he said. “I was pressured to force a conversation, but I said I wouldn’t do it and that Peres’ responsibility for the country will win out. Today Peres made the most important move for returning the Labor party to the center of the political map.”


Meanwhile, a poll published by Haaretz newspaper Friday shows Labor under Peretz winning 28 Knesset seats, up from its current showing of 21.


'We'll win at least 30 Knesset seats'


Indeed, Peretz is already setting his sights on the next battle - against the ruling party, Likud.


In an interview with Ynet, he said he intends to rejuvenate the Labor party and win 30 Knesset seats in the next general elections. In order to achieve this goal, he fully intends to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and make it clear that Labor will be quitting the government.


"I'll tell him we want to part ways in a dignified manner," Peretz said. "We want to be independent, and want the Labor party to renew its ability to serve as an alternative. But in order to do that, we first have to give its members some time to reorganize. Political objectives must be defined."


Turning his attention to Labor primaries rival Shimon Peres, Peretz says he sees no reason to feel insulted that Peres did not call to congratulate him on his victory right away.


Peres eventually did call Peretz on Friday morning, following the interview.


"I can understand the difficult moment Shimon is going through and I'm willing to show patience to get that hoped-for phone call," he says. "I think his phone call is very important, because it also constitutes a message to the entire party. I'll do everything to thaw the ice. I turned to several members and people close to Peres to act on this front and I hope they succeed."


Peretz says he has no qualms with Peres. In fact, the opposite appears to be true


"People close to him say he's currently in a mood that doesn't allow him to make that phone call to me," Peretz says. "I hope this will change in the next 24 hours. On my part, I will do every effort. Even if I have to call myself, I'll do it."


Peretz also says he is willing to guarantee Peres the number two spot in the party.


"He won't have to go through the primaries. If Shimon Peres will agree to be number two, I have no doubt the entire party will be happy. I relayed this message to Peres through his people, and I hope he is aware of it. I'll be updated on this," Peres says.


The interview with Peretz took place a little past 10 p.m. Thursday. The new Labor leader, tired than ever, said he hasn't been able to sleep for almost 48 hours. He also says he has not yet come to terms with his victory.


"I'm slowly realizing what I went through," he says. "In any case, I still haven't slept for one minute. I swear."


Counting on internal Likud struggle


Peretz is talking with enthusiasm about the daily activity needed to push Labor forward. He says he hopes to be active on the socioeconomic front and take advantage of the momentum.


"I'm counting on the war within Likud," he says. "I think if we organize well, while they're busy with their wars, we could set up a campaign headquarters…set up regional centers, with Knesset members being tasked with responsibility…and not the kind of work they're used to doing, through the media. I'm talking about working with their feet."


"If we succeed, I'm sure we can do something exceptional," Peretz adds. "If we can overcome all the small internal crises, and if we'll be able to set up a very large organization of activists and volunteers, in my opinion we'll succeed. There's no doubt at all the Labor party is the one who is holding up the social flags today…it's an asset that can be used immediately."


The new Labor chairman estimates the next elections will be brought forward to March 2006, or May at the latest. "I'll try to agree on a date with Likud," he says.


Meanwhile, he has big plans for Labor and wants to push forward reforms within the party that will allow for new blood, and particularly younger and minority representatives, to gain a foothold in the party.


"The potential we have among the Arab population in Israel is very big," he says.


"The party list must be rejuvenated, but I'm assuming there will be more room for everybody, because I intend to bring 30 Knesset seats," he says. "I'll bring at least 30 Knesset seats. How will I do that? I set an objective, and usually I reach it."


פרסום ראשון: 11.11.05, 08:00
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