Veteran lawmaker Amir Peretz was on Tuesday elected chairman of the Labor Party for the second time, and immediately vowed to expand ahead of the next elections in September.
The 67-year-old Peretz claimed 47 percent of the votes in the ballot of party members, followed by relative newcomers Stav Shaffir, 34, and Itzik Shmuli, 39, who won 27 percent and 26 percent of the vote, respectively.
Peretz was declared the next leader of the party in the first round of voting, after he managed to pull in more than 40 percent of the votes.
He succeeds Avi Gabbay, who said he would not be running after the party's dismal performance in the April 9 elections.
Labor, which for years dominated Israel's political landscape, won just six seats in the vote, far behind leading parties Likud and Blue and White, which garnered 35 seats apiece.
"The first and most important thing we need to do is to bring forces into the bloc," Peretz said after his win Tuesday night. "I want to bring new people who will join us in order to replace the government."
This is Peretz's fifth election campaign for the leadership of the Labor Party. He won his first victory in 2005, when he defeated the late Shimon Peres in a surprise win. He was later unseated by former prime minister Ehgud Barak in a 2007 leaderhip race.
He also lost to Shelly Yachimovich in 2011 and Gabbay in 2017.
But he was optimistic of his chances of unseating Benjamin Netanyahu, declaring during his campaign that: "If I become Labor Party leader, Bibi (Netanyahu) will no longer be prime minister."
Peretz also presented a plan to win 15 seats in the September elections, predicting that the party would take four seats from Blue and White, and three each from the moderate right-wing, Moshe Kahlon's now Likud-aligned Kulanu Party and Orly Levy-Abekasis's Gesher, as well as earning two seats more from Arab and Druze voters.
The new leader also said that his first act would be to unite the Labor Party with other parties in the center-left bloc, referring to Ehud Barak's new movement and the Meretz party.
Peretz and Barak have an historical political rivalry, have held secret meetings in Tel Aviv in recent weeks. Peretz's associates have clarified that he would not rush to give Barak the senior role in any union of their parties.
Peretz entered the race this time as favorite, partly because of his broad political experience in contrast to Shmuli and Shaffir, for whom this was the first campaign for the leadership.
Despite the encouraging polls and the sense that victory was more likely than ever, Peretz expressed concern about low turnout and the desire to go for someone "new" rather than "old and familiar."
Asked whether he was afraid of a poor showing in his fifth election campaign, Peretz replied: "I fear two things: God and the ballot box."