Herzog vows to not be Peretz's pawn

"I will not be a pawn in the chess game of anyone."

herzog 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
herzog 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog warned Labor chairman Amir Peretz on Tuesday that his efforts to pressure him to give up his portfolio in a proposed cabinet reshuffle would not succeed. Peretz surprised Herzog when he told the Labor faction on Monday that he had already given away his Tourism portfolio in exchange for the Social Affairs Ministry in a conversation with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in October. Herzog fought back in a fiery interview with Army Radio on Tuesday. "I will not be a pawn in the chess game of anyone - not of the prime minister and not of Amir Peretz," Herzog said. "Social Affairs is an important portfolio, but in the present circumstances the story is that I am in a political struggle and [Peretz is] using the portfolio cynically, in a way that's not right." Herzog accused Peretz of "spinning the press from morning to night" at his expense and "playing games" against him, because he supports former prime minister Ehud Barak in the May 28 Labor leadership race. He said leaving the Tourism portfolio would cause people in the tourism industry to lose their jobs and that he did not want the Social Affairs portfolio because it had been "neutralized" and its budget tied up. The Labor faction will convene in a meeting closed to the press in Tel Aviv on Thursday to make a final decision about how to approach the cabinet reshuffle. The three options that will be considered at the meeting will be Peretz's proposal to give up the Tourism portfolio in favor of the Social Affairs Ministry, the status quo of Olmert maintaining the Social Affairs portfolio, and convening the Labor central committee to decide on a wider reshuffle of portfolios within Labor. The ministers who support Barak's candidacy could use such a central committee meeting to force Peretz out of the Defense Ministry and replace him with Barak. Barak received an endorsement in the Labor race on Tuesday from Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer.