peretz addresses labor.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ex-Labor chief Amir Peretz will be conspicuously absent at a festive meal for party MKs and their spouses at National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's Rishon Lezion home on Sunday night.
Current Labor chairman Ehud Barak and Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel invited the faction in an effort to unify its ranks after months of turmoil ahead of last June's Labor primary and the political jostling in its aftermath.
Sunday's event is being held on the eve of the opening of the Knesset's six-month winter session.
Sources close to Peretz said he and his wife, Akhlama, would not be able to attend because of a "prior engagement."
They declined to say whether his absence was connected to his political battles with Barak and Ben-Eliezer.
In recent interviews, Peretz complained that Ben-Eliezer had "stabbed him in the back" after vowing to treat Peretz better than he (Ben-Eliezer) was treated when he was Labor leader. Peretz also accused Barak of treating him "inhumanely" when he fired him from his post as defense minister by sending him a fax.
Peretz is expected to be a thorn in Barak's side during battles in the faction ahead of voting on the 2008 state budget.
Peretz has said that he would insist on the Finance Ministry honoring commitments made to him when Labor joined the coalition.
Cabel said he was surprised by the news that Peretz would not be attending the event.
"I am sure he will come unless it's a matter of life and death," Cabel said. "There is no reason for him not to come."
Ben-Eliezer's associates said he was not bothered by Peretz's decision to stay away. "In politics, you have to move forward," one said.
Two other Barak opponents in the faction, MKs Yoram Marciano and Avishay Braverman, said Saturday night that they would attend the event. Braverman said that he met with Barak two weeks ago to settle their differences.
"I made peace with everyone," Braverman said. "We have a party, and I will continue to fight for what I believe in from within its ranks."
Another Labor member who does intend to attend is MK Michael Melchior. He said he could not make the event due to a key meeting of his Meimad council, and that his lack of attendance had nothing to do with the meat that will be barbecued by Ben-Eliezer and his wife, Dolly.
"It's not connected to kashrut at Ben-Eliezer's house," Melchior said. "And I'm not angry with the Labor faction."
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