Labor leadership primary in danger again

The Labor Party's leadership primary, which is set for next Wednesday, might have to be delayed a second time due to a minor procedural matter, Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel warned Monday night. A Labor internal court decided late Monday to convene the party's central committee on Sunday ahead of the election to discuss Labor's problematic membership drive, which Cabel said could lead to a delay in the race. A larger party court was due to rule on Thursday on a proposal by Labor leadership candidates Shimon Peres and Amir Peretz to prevent the committee from meeting due to alleged forgeries in the petition used to convene the meeting. Cabel examined the petition and found that it lacked the number of signatures necessary to convene the central committee, but the court will make the final decision about whether the committee will meet. The petition was filed by Labor executive committee member Danny Cohen, a party gadfly unaffiliated with any of the Labor candidates. The campaign of National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer helped Cohen compile the signatures and a proposal to delay the election is expected to be proposed at the meeting by Labor activist Orna Angel, who is close to Ben-Eliezer and former prime minister Ehud Barak. "The date of the election is not holy but it is very important to elect a party chairman with a kosher membership drive," Cohen said. Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy, the Tel Aviv District Court and a retired judge working with Labor have all ruled that the problems with the drive do not warrant delaying the race. If the race were delayed, it is likely that Peres would be allowed to run as the party's candidate for prime minister in the next election. Peretz accused Peres, Barak and Ben-Eliezer of conspiring to cancel the race to prevent him from winning. Peretz said he hoped Peres was not part of "another anti-democratic stinking maneuver." Peres's campaign responded by saying he did not want the race delayed by a single minute. His spokeswoman said Peres appealed to prevent the election from being delayed because holding the race next week was necessary for the party and the nation. Next Monday's key Knesset vote on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet appointments could also lead to a cancellation of the Labor race if it results in the advancement of the next general election.