"I will keep J'lem strong and united, with a Jewish majority," says Peretz.
By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKELPublished: JANUARY 22, 2006 21:19Advertisement
Strengthening the education system, raising the minimum wage, implementing mandatory pensions, and waging a war on "big money" backed politics were at the top of Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz's platform, which he presented to a party convention Sunday night.
More than one thousand people gathered to hear the platform, which was the first time Peretz formally announced his willingness to withdraw from part of Judea Samaria and East Jerusalem, while leaving the larger Jewish settlement blocks intact.
"We will push forward peace negotiations while striving for a permanent-status agreement based on two states for two peoples," said Peretz. "I will keep Jerusalem strong and united, with a Jewish character and a Jewish majority population."
Peretz also used the occasion to launch an attack on acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the first time since Ariel Sharon's hospitalization last month.
"Olmert has told students that he will raise tuition at higher education institutions," Peretz said. "I promise that every student will be free to study." He added that student loans would be altered so that students would begin repaying the loans only when they had entered the work force and received a salary equitable to the market average.
"Last week we found out that Olmet was against raising the minimum wage," Peretz said, while promising that Labor would seek to raise the minimum wage to $1,000 per month.
Previously, Peretz has refrained from attacking his rivals, but a party spokesman said Sunday that an attack on Olmert was not an attack on Sharon, and that it was time for Labor to distinguish itself in the campaign.
Otherwise, noted several party members, Labor's platform closely resembled the principles that Kadima has come to represent on defense
"When it comes to Jerusalem, implementing the Sasson report, hastening the completion of the fence it is true that Labor and Kadima have similarities," acknowledged a spokesman. "But that it a level platform, what is different, what makes labor the party to elect, is our socio economic reform, an agenda that the Kadima party does not begin to touch."
During his speech, Peretz also acknowledged the similarities in the security stances.
"There is one issue and one issue only that will define why Israel will vote for us," Peretz said. "All parties promise to make Israel safe, but who can promise a socio-economic agenda? Only us!"
Peretz's stances sought to embrace middle class voters, said a Labor Party spokeswoman.
In addition to the top 40 candidates on the Labor Knesset list, Ehud Barak also attended the convention.
"This is an evening for celebration for the Labor Party," said Barak, who refused to comment on a rumored deal to include him in the party's list.
A high ranking Labor official, however, said that the drive to increase Barak's involvement in the party was invented by Barak supporters, and that the party was stronger without Barak.
"We will not be hearing of any compromise or agreement to include Barak in the party any time soon," said the official.
MKs Matan Vilna'i, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, and Danny Yatom, who were rumored to be upset with Peretz over their low placement on the Labor list, also attended the convention.