Amir Peretz leaves Labor, joins Tzipi Livni Party

Former defense minister joins Livni's party third on list; Labor, Yesh Atid, Meretz slam "opportunistic" move.

Amir Peretz 370 (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)
Amir Peretz 370
(photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)
Former defense minister and Labor Party MK Amir Peretz announced Thursday morning that he was leaving the Labor Party and joining the Tzipi Livni Party in the coming elections. Hours later, Peretz officially resigned from Labor.
Introducing the newest addition to the list of candidates who are running under her in the upcoming Knesset elections, Tzipi Livni said she is "happy I am not the only one who believes in joining forces to deal with the country's diplomatic, security and socioeconomic challenges."
At the press conference, Peretz said Israeli policy must center around security, at the same time defending his role as defense minister during the Second Lebanon War, after which he resigned.
The end result of the war, he said, has brought almost seven years of quiet to the north of Israel. Livni acted as foreign minister during the war.
Peretz also reaffirmed his support for peace and the two state solution, citing his Moroccan heritage as an example of different people living side by side.
"My father, who lived with Arabs in Morocco,always asked me why we couldn't make peace with them here," Peretz asked. "Without a peace agreement, there will be no social justice."
Commenting on the Labor primaries, Peretz said he had offered his support to leader Shelly Yacimovich on several occasions, but she always turned down his extended hand. Speaking to her directly, he said she had "no right to concede" the diplomatic vision.
He stated that Shelly thought he was "sabotaging her party's efforts to replace Netanyahu," adding that if those were her thoughts, he will no longer bother her. He also called on her to detail a plan for peace with the Palestinian Authority.
Peretz handed his resignation letter to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Thursday afternoon. He will be replaced by former Labor MK Yoram Marciano, who was next on the party's list for the 18th Knesset, but did not run in last month's primary.
"We need to ask ourselves what is happening in our political culture," Rivlin told Peretz. "I come from a very ideological home, and I see a new culture that has brought many Israelis to raise an eyebrow."
Rivlin called for a new code of political behavior to stop the wave of party-jumping.
"I think the next Knesset will have to answer the democratic, constitutional question of whether a candidate in one party's primary can immediately join a different party," he added.
Peretz told Rivlin that his decision was rotted in values and ideology and he felt morally compelled to resign from serving as a Labor lawmaker after moving to the Tzipi Livni party.
"No MK proved time and time again his commitment to values, as I did," he stated. "I believe in setting a personal example."
Several MK's reacted on Friday to Peretz's political move, with Yesh Atid launching a personal attack at the entire Livni Party.
"Livni is leading the way in old politics," the statement said.
The Yesh Atid party lambasted the Tzipi Livni Party for becoming an "asylum for political opportunism" which won't last a single day after the elections.
Meanwhile, Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On said it is good there is a "strong and reliable" leftist bloc in Israeli politics.
The Israeli public must be watching political events unfold with disgust at the extent of the ego, opportunism, zig-zagging and jumping from party to party involved in the run up to the elections, she added.
"I'm glad that Meretz can be a safe haven of integrity in our commitment to ideology over opportunism," Gal-On stated.
Erel Margalit said Peretz "made a political mistake" by leaving Labor and joining the Tzivi Lipni Party.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.