Ayalon may get Peretz's support

But insists there will be no deal over portfolios with outgoing Labor chairman.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
June 3, 2007 01:40
2 minute read.
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Outgoing Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz is expected to announce his support for MK Ami Ayalon in the June 12 Labor runoff at a political rally of the Peretz camp on Sunday night at Labor's Tel Aviv headquarters. After press time late Saturday night Ayalon met with Peretz for the third time and MK Ophir Paz-Pines for the second time since Peretz and Paz-Pines lost the Labor race in its first round last Monday. Ayalon would like to get the backing of both candidates to improve his chances in the runoff against former prime minister Ehud Barak. Ayalon told Yediot Aharonot's Nahum Barnea that he was angry that the press was reporting a deal with Peretz that did not exist. "If I need a deal to get elected then I have no problem with losing the election," Ayalon said. "My main asset is that I add a bit of honesty to politics and I don't want to give that up. I cannot be extorted. I will not be anyone's captive." Ayalon told supporters over the weekend that there would be a verbal agreement on mutual cooperation to advance socioeconomic issues but that portfolios and personal considerations were not raised in his talks with Peretz. The Ayalon campaign accused Barak's campaign of distributing lies about a potential Ayalon-Peretz deal. The Hebrew press published a report over the weekend that Peretz would receive the Finance portfolio and Ayalon would be deputy prime minister and a Minister-without-Portfolio in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government. "The Barak campaign is spinning lies because they are pressured ahead of the runoff and it's unfortunate that the press keeps on falling for it," an Ayalon spokeswoman said. Barak's spokesman denied any connection to the report. But he said his campaign would distribute a sticker in kibbutzim on Sunday with the slogan "You voted Ami, you got Amir." The Barak campaign accused Olmert over the weekend of interfering in the race on Ayalon's behalf via MK Haim Ramon, who advises Olmert on politics and has a long-standing feud with Barak. The Barak campaign accused Ayalon of conspiring with Peretz and Ramon in a "stinking maneuver" against the former prime minister. Barak intends to meet Sunday with Minister-without-Portfolio Ghaleb Majadle in order to try to win the support of the Israeli Arab voters he brought to Peretz in the first round. Majadle said he was meeting with Barak "to show him respect," but that he would likely endorse whomever Peretz would back. Majadle and Peretz spoke at a rally of Labor's Arab sector on Saturday in Baka al-Gharbiya. Peretz said at the rally that although he lost the race, the 22 percent he won proved that he had a strong socioeconomic camp that was "just as important as being Labor chairman and defense minister." Paz-Pines convened his supporters in Tel Aviv on Friday. Some of them told him to endorse Ayalon, others said to back Barak and many said to support neither candidate. He said he would wait for developments in the race and decide soon on whether to make an endorsement. "If there's a deal between Ayalon and Peretz, there's almost no chance that Paz-Pines will back him because they have opposite goals," a Paz-Pines spokesman said. "Amir wants to stay in the government and Ophir wants Labor to leave as long as Olmert remains prime minister." Meanwhile, in the race for president, Vice Premier Shimon Peres is set to officially become a candidate on Sunday morning when Kadima MKs Yoel Hasson and Ronit Tirosh submit the necessary number of MKs' signatures who support Peres's bid.

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