Labor Party judge begins membership-drive probe

Peretz at center of controversy after two media investigations accuse him of registering thousands of new members with a scant connection to the party.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 4, 2011 04:53
2 minute read.
Amir Peretz

311_ amir peretz. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))

 
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Retired judge Sara Frish will begin her effort to inspect the Labor Party’s controversial membership drive on Monday afternoon, when she meets with the five candidates for the party leadership at the Knesset.

Frish headed a committee that investigated a problematic membership drive in Labor six years ago in which there were widespread allegations of fraud. She disqualified some 30,000 membership forms ahead of a primary in which Amir Peretz defeated Shimon Peres.

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Now Peretz is at the center of controversy again after two media investigations accused him of registering thousands of new members with a scant connection to the party.

Peretz fired back on Sunday at rival candidates’ accusations that he was using improper means to return to the Labor chairmanship.

“I will stand up against the fear-mongering and scare tactics employed against people who have been given a feeling that they are unwanted in the party,” he said. “I will not tolerate this effort to delegitimize people.”

In the meeting with Frish, candidates Isaac Herzog, Shelly Yacimovich, Amram Mitzna and Erel Margalit are expected to gang up on Peretz, accuse him of fraud and demand a thorough investigation of the 23,000 membership forms his campaign brought to the party.

Peretz’s associates said he would tell Frish that he would not let his rivals return Labor to “the bad old days” when the historic Mapai that is the forerunner of Labor turned away entire sectors of the population.

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The Peretz campaign said it was unfair to single out towns where more Labor members were registered than voted for the party in the last general election because Labor was led at the time by Ehud Barak, who turned off poorer sectors.

Campaign officials said that many of the people registered in the current drive had been members during Peretz’s first stint at the helm of the party.

Sources close to Peretz called it “chutzpah” that Yacimovich and Herzog had condemned him for using Netivot Labor activist Moshe Peretz to register hundreds of people in the mostly haredi town. They said both Yacimovich and Herzog had visited Moshe Peretz at his home to ask for his support, and that the Netivot activist had pictures to prove it.

“We are proud to bring new voters from Likud and Shas,” Peretz’s spokesman said. “This kind of abuse shows the problems with the party. It’s a sign that his party is suicidal.”

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