(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amir Peretz, who defeated Shimon Peres to become Labor leader in 2005 and lost to Ehud Barak in 2007, said Monday he will seek to return to the post in the next Labor leadership race.
In his fourth run for the post, Peretz will challenge current Labor head Isaac Herzog, MK Erel Margalit, possibly MK Shelly Yacimovich and other candidates.
The election currently must be held by July, according to a decision by the party’s central committee. No date has been set, however, and the race still could be postponed to facilitate the candidacy of a general, such as former IDF chiefs Gabi Ashkenazi or Benny Gantz.
Peretz, surprisingly, did not shy away from calling himself a “leftist” – a word proven consistently by polls to scare away Israeli voters.
“I am a man of the Left, and I never hid my views,” Peretz said at a Knesset press conference.
“Left means fighting for social justice, peace and democracy.
I won’t let this race be about who’s more loyal to the State of Israel. Left also means security and pursuing peace.”
When asked about Herzog, Peretz called him a good Knesset member and praised him for winning 24 seats in the 2015 general election. Peretz said, however, he could bring more votes from the Right to the Center- Left bloc due his socioeconomic focus.
“Over the past year, I have journeyed through Israeli society. I see walls of hatred, between the periphery and the Center that could break up our society. The government of Israel is doing what it can to build the walls because it serves the survival of the current government.”
Peretz said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been acting without restraint to harm freedom of expression and press. He said the 2006 election in which Kadima won, his Labor finished second and Netanyahu’s Likud third proves he can defeat the prime minister.
“I can’t stand on the side as my land is bleeding [in poverty],” Peretz said. “That’s why I decided to run for Labor leader and lead the struggle against Netanyahu until he’s replaced by a better government. I believe with full faith that I’m the only candidate who can bring the bloc the mandates it didn’t have in the last election.”
Herzog welcomed Peretz’s candidacy and called him a respectable candidate but said he would continue to lead the party in the next election.