"Half a year ago, being a friend of Peretz would have almost been considered treason against the nation," he said.
The current Labor chairman, who won 22.4 percent of the votes, was particularly encouraged by the results in his home town of Sderot, where he got 688 votes, compared to less than 80 votes received by Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon together.
"Twelve rockets landed in Sderot on election day, and these people provided the highest voting percentage under fire. The conclusion is that the media have been saying for a long time that Sderot residents are embittered, but many of the town's residents voted for me, for the defense minister," Peretz added.
Although he failed to reach the next round of elections, Peretz is planning his future in politics. On Tuesday evening he is expected to meet with his supporters and activists in Rishon Lezion, where he will thank them for their efforts and promise to establish a strong and influential social camp in the Labor Party in particular, and in Israeli politics in general.
Peretz is convinced that in light of the results, he will be the person to determine who will be the next Labor chairman.
"Me and my camp can determine who will win the elections for the party leadership," the defense minister said. "We will do it together, through consultation. We are going to establish a special social camp, which will be strong and influential."
Peretz's associates fear that some of the Knesset members who supported him will be pressured to move to Barak's camp. The defense minister made it clear that "I do not care about ministerial portfolios. The social camp must be a strong camp. I am not motivated by calculations of how much space there is at the top next to the person I am going to support."
'Ayalon cannot win without Peretz'
Meanwhile, activists at the headquarters of Ami Ayalon and Ehud Barak are already preparing for the second round of the Labor primaries, set to be held on June 12, after none of the contenders managed to secure the required 40 percent of the vote on Monday.
Barak won the greatest number of votes, 35.6 percent, Ayalon came second with 30.6 percent, Amir Peretz received 22.4 percent of the votes, Ophir Pines – 8 percent and Danny Yatom – 2.7 percent. Voter turnout stood at 65.2 percent.
Barak and Ayalon's current goal is to enlist the support of Amir Peretz and Ophir Pines' camps in a bid to win the race.
Peretz's aides reported that Ayalon has already requested to meet with Peretz, in hope of garnering his support.
Sources close to the defense minister told Ynet that Ayalon will not be able to win the second round without the support of Peretz's camp.
"Ami has no chance to win without Amir Peretz," an aide to the defense minister said. "He dropped to 30 percent, and that is not a simple matter."
Sources at Peretz's headquarters added that Barak also needed him in order to win the second round, but that "Amir Ayalon cannot do it without him. The decision of Amir and his people regarding Ayalon is critical."
The head of Peretz's campaign headquarters, Knesset Member Yoram Marciano, said that Peretz hadn't decided yet who to support.
"As a political camp, we are not going to sit on the fence. We are holding discussions to decide what to do... the most important thing for us is to uphold the socioeconomic flag, and this issue will be an important consideration in our decision," he added.