peretz at labor mtg 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz may have won the first challenge to his leadership of the party, but the party members who opposed him said they were far from putting down their weapons Monday.
"There are still a lot of people out there biding their time and waiting for the next opportunity to attack," said a member of the central committee who supported the group opposing Peretz. "There is still a lot of bad blood against him in the party."
On Sunday, Peretz won a crucial vote in the party's central committee over the issue of ministerial appointments. MKs who opposed Peretz had suggested that the committee turn the appointments over to a party-wide vote rather than adopt Peretz's list.
In the end, Peretz's list won out by a slim margin of 34 votes. The resounding victory speech that Peretz gave, said party members, made the chairman sound more secure in his position than he should be.
"The whole country may be waiting for Peretz to fail in the Defense Ministry," said one MK who opposed Peretz. "But there are many in the party who are waiting to jump on any mistake he makes."
In the meantime, said officials close to Peretz, the chairman was looking to build his support among the party's influential members.
On Sunday, one of the crucial elements that voted against Peretz was a group of representatives from the Kibbutz Movement. Peretz was said to not have especially close ties with the kibbutzim, despite his brother's close work with kibbutzim in the south. Since the vote, Peretz has met with several kibbutz representatives and was said to be considering a motion by them to push for Meretz to be included in the coalition.
Meanwhile, many party members said they were examining Peretz's speech for signs of how he would approach his new job at the Defense Ministry.
"Our job is to continue to work for peace," said Peretz during his speech Sunday. "My message for Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] is that he must promise to not disappear as a partner for peace."
Peretz stressed his campaign promise not to undertake any unilateral steps until his options at the negotiation table were completely exhausted. At the same time, Peretz promised that Jewish settlements in the West Bank would "shrink" during his term.
"Peretz has taken a clear line against the settlers in the West Bank," said a high-ranking Labor official. "Many in the party hope that he can continue that line when he is sitting in the decision-making chair."