(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Labor leader Isaac Herzog welcomed former Labor chairman Amir Peretz back to the party Monday at a Knesset press conference, vowing to build the Zionist Union into a larger bloc of parties that will run together in the next general election.
Peretz led Labor from November 2005 to June 2007, but left the party in December 2012 to run with MK Tzipi Livni’s new Hatnua party. Labor and Hatnua ran together in the 2015 election as the Zionist Union, which brought Peretz back into the same faction as Labor, but he technically remained part of Hatnua until Monday.
“I am happy Amir came home,” Herzog said at the press conference. “Amir is a courageous leader with a career of achievements on socioeconomic and defense issues. His return is the first step toward building a wider Zionist Union with Livni and others who I hope to add soon.”
Peretz told The Jerusalem Post
that he had many ideas for parties and organizations that could be added to form a larger Zionist Union that could beat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud in the next election.
“We need a large bloc with more parliamentary and non-parliamentary groups under Labor’s leadership in order to restore hope to Israel,” Peretz said.
Peretz worked behind the scenes over the past year to bring about a full merger between Labor and Hatnua, but did succeed in persuading Livni to pull the trigger. Herzog said he believed the maneuver would be finalized soon.
Although Peretz praised Herzog’s leadership, he was careful not to promise that he will not run against him in the next Labor leadership race that is expected to take place in the second half of the year. In closed conversations Peretz said that running was “an option, not an obsession.”
Peretz and MK Shelly Yacimovich have reportedly had talks about how to work together to defeat Herzog. Peretz declined to confirm or deny the reports.
“I am here to help the head of the Zionist Union present a fighting alternative to Netanyahu,” Peretz said. “I am here to strengthen the Zionist Union and its leader. There is an alternative to Bibi [Netanyahu], and we are here to prove it.”
Yacimovich said Peretz’s return closed a circle for her. He left Labor when she headed the party to protest her leadership.
“I am glad he is back. It is a natural fit, and I wish him well,” she said.