Anti-Peretz faction growing in Labor

Bickering party heads for vital Central Committee meeting on ministers.

vilnaiscratcheshead298AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Labor Party has neared a stage of civil war, said senior party officials, with the first battle scheduled for the Party's Central Committee meeting Sunday. Over the past week, two factions have emerged in the party. One, led by party chairman Amir Peretz, was pushing for Labor to approve the ministerial appointments as arranged by Peretz. The second, opposing faction's argument for a new ministerial arrangement has continued to grow stronger as more Labor members, disappointed with their lot under Peretz's arrangement, have joined the fray. "It began quietly but now even Peretz has become concerned that there is something serious underfoot," said an official close to Peretz. "There is a lot of nervousness over [Sunday's] meeting." The crux of the issue was expected to be resolved on Sunday, when the committee was scheduled to vote on how the seven ministers allotted to the party would be chosen. MKs Danny Yatom and Matan Vilna'i have led the opposition by submitting a petition that the committee allow Labor ministers be chosen through party-wide elections. Meanwhile, MKs Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Yuli Tamir have been building up a counter-opposition to preserve Peretz's list. The "Top of the Pops" method proposed by the opposition would allow any party member to run for one of the seven ministerial positions that Labor has been provided. Since they began their assault on Peretz's handling of the coalition agreement, the MKs have been joined by several other prominent party members, including MKs Ophir Paz-Pines and Ami Ayalon. As of Saturday, Labor officials suggested that it was possible for the opposition group to receive the 250 signatures it needed to force a committee vote on the issue, and undermine Peretz's appointments. According to the coalition agreement signed Thursday between Labor and Kadima negotiators, Labor will get the Defense, Education, National Infrastructure, Agriculture, Culture and Sports and Tourism ministries, along with one minister-without-portfolio. "The negotiations were difficult, trying and long, but also fair and topical," Kadima negotiating team head Yoram Turbowitz said at the signing of the agreement. He added that the agreement was "good for Kadima, for Labor and for the state of Israel." Peretz was expected to announce his intended minister list before the committee meeting. It was widely speculated, however, that he would take the Defense Ministry for himself, assign Education to Tamir, Agriculture to MK Shalom Simhon, National Infrastructure to Ben-Eliezer, Tourism to MK Isaac Herzog, Paz-Pines as a minister without portfolio at the head of culture, sports and Jerusalem affairs, and Cabel as minister without portfolio.