Analysis: Peretz seeks allies in rebellious faction

Labor MKs find themselves weighing where they would stand in a party shakedown.

amir peretz 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
amir peretz 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Labor Party MKs found themselves weighing where they would stand in a party shakedown Wednesday amid increased rumors of the party's imminent collapse. Only six of the 19 current Labor MKs emerged as clear allies of party chairman Amir - Ministers Shalom Simhon, Ophir Paz-Pines, Isaac Herzog, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Eitan Cabel and Yuli Tamir. Critics of Peretz argue that all of six are loyal because Peretz appointed them to ministerial positions. "It is time for Peretz to come back and bring order to his house," Cabel said on Wednesday. Part of that order might include silencing his most vocal critics, the "rebel quintet" of MKs Ami Ayalon, Avishay Braverman, Danny Yatom, Matan Vilna'i and Colette Avital. They were all shunned by Peretz when he handed out portfolios and have since built their opposition to him on the grounds that he ignored the party's socioeconomic agenda. The party's other eight MKs have found themselves swinging between the two groups. "It's all a trapeze act right now. Everyone is swinging from ropes, but all it would take is one heavyweight and the whole thing will tip," said one MK who still finds himself caught in the middle. That heavyweight might be Ben-Eliezer. Although he currently ranks as a Peretz loyalist, many close to him said he could be pulled away from the Peretz camp. As one of the most senior Labor MKs, his influence in the party's central committee could be crucial during a leadership race. There have been tensions between Ben-Eliezer and Peretz dating back long before the party's leadership election. Peretz, who gave Ben-Eliezer a ministerial post to ensure his support, has never fully won him over. "Ben-Eliezer is old guard and Peretz is new. It's oil and water, and they can play nice, but they just don't mix," said one central committee member. Another possible heavyweight is Paz-Pines, who has often clashed with Peretz and has been known to harshly criticize him behind closed doors. Paz-Pines, who rose through the ranks of the party through his activism in its youth movement, also has many friends in the central committee and could be counted upon to bring a strong following. Others, including MKs Orit Noked, Michael Melchior and Nadia Hilou, have often been labeled "passive" for their tendency to shun political diatribes in favor of committee work. They too have expressed disillusionment with Peretz for abandoning the socioeconomic agenda of the election platform once he became defense minister. "He is not the man we all stood behind in the elections, not the man we thought would finally give time and attention to the working poor," said one MK who has not yet made up his mind which camp to join. "The question is whether these other leaders, from the rebel group, will be any different." Some former Peretz loyalists, including Shelly Yacimovich and Yoram Marciano, have caused Peretz the most trouble in the Knesset. Both have repeatedly voted against the party line in favor of their own socioeconomic agendas and, in breaking ranks, lowered Labor's standing in the coalition.