Peretz: Joining Netanyahu gov't might split Labor

Yacimovich faces challenge from Peretz who says joining Netanyahu coalition can't be option, Labor must head peace camp.

Amir Peretz greets supporters311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Amir Peretz greets supporters311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Before the ink was even dry on the results of Labor's primary, MK Amir Peretz announced that if Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich refused to announce in advance of the election that she would not take the party into a government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, he would consider splitting Labor
Peretz told Israel Radio Friday at Labor's election headquarters immediately after the results were announced that the party cannot join the government under any circumstances and if it did, a split in the party had to be considered. Several of Peretz's allies were elected to realistic slots on Labor's list, including MKs Eitan Cabel and Ghaleb Majadle and Ma'ale Gilboa Regional Council chairman Danny Atar.
Yacimovich responded to Peretz by telling Channel 2's Ulpan Shishi program Friday night that the chances of Labor joining a Netanyahu-led government were almost zero, but she refused to completely rule out such a possibility.
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"I intend to win the election and topple Netanyahu," Yacimovich said. "It would be foolish to say in advance that we would not join the government and I don't intend to play into the hands of those who want me to do something so foolish."
Yacimovich and Peretz are expected to meet as early as Sunday to settle their differences. At the meeting, Yacimovich is expected to tell Peretz that she will not accept rebellions in her faction, and Peretz is expected to demand that Labor take a tougher line on diplomatic issues.
"I will tell her that social justice is the most important issue, and it's the issue that I put on the map in this country," Peretz told Channel 2's Meet the Press program Saturday night. "But we cannot concede Labor's place at the head of the peace camp, and that must be the most central thing for us. We need to say very clearly that we are not joining the Netanyahu-Liberman government, period. We should not leave the door open even by a crack."
Peretz said he did not want to repeat what happened four years ago when Labor told its voters that it would be a fighting opposition to Netanyahu and the party ended up joining his government.
MK Isaac Herzog, who won the second slot on the Labor list for the third time in a row Thursday, scolded Peretz and vowed to ensure unity in the ranks of the party. 
"Labor members and supporters cannot tolerate leadership that disrupts our unity when we must be focusing on presenting an alternative to Netanyahu and replacing his government," Herzog said. "Peretz's words do not represent the views of the faction and I call upon him to give a hand to Shelly and the party."
Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar, who is seventh on the party's list said "It is time to unite behind the head of our party in our struggle against the Likud. Organizing political camps and threatening splits nearly destroyed our party over the past decade and we cannot let this phenomenon return."