Paz-Pines vows to stay in Labor race until the end

Peretz finishes last in poll - after 'none of the above.'

Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines promised on Friday to remain in the Labor leadership race until the May 28 primary, despite predictions from his rivals that he would eventually quit and endorse one of them. Paz-Pines spent the weekend campaigning across the country, from Zichron Ya'acov in the North to Beersheba in the South. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Paz-Pines said that any suggestion he might not remain in the race was "political spin" and wishful thinking on the part of his opponents. "I am staying until the end," Paz-Pines said. "I am in this contest to start a new trend in Israel of a new kind of leadership. My campaign will be focused on the fight against corruption and for a regional approach to solving the Middle East conflict." Paz-Pines also said he would support negotiations with Saudi Arabia and other north African countries who share Israel's interest in preventing a nuclear Iran. "We should not be looking only to the Palestinians," Paz-Pines said. "We should [bring an] end to the deadlock by talking to the entire region and seeking solutions for both peace and security." A Dahaf Institute poll published Friday in Yediot Aharonot showed that among Labor voters, MK Ami Ayalon led the race, followed by former prime minister Ehud Barak, Paz-Pines and MK Danny Yatom. The incumbent candidate, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, placed sixth, after the option "none of the above." The poll found that 72 percent of Israelis ranked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's job performance as "not good." The top three Labor candidates would beat Olmert, but Peretz would not. If elections were held now, the poll predicted, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu would beat Olmert and any possible Labor candidate. Of the Labor candidates, Ayalon would come the closest to beating Netanyahu, but Paz-Pines would take more support away from the Likud than any other Labor candidate. In an effort to generate more public support, Netanyahu will begin hosting a series of public rallies in what he believes are "future confrontation-line communities," starting on Sunday in Kfar Saba. Future rallies will be held in other locations that lie in range of missiles that could be fired from the West Bank, such as Petah Tikva, Hod Hasharon, and the Ben-Gurion Airport. The rallies were originally planned to start in late June to protest Olmert's West Bank realignment plan, but were delayed when IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. Israel Beiteinu was supposed to take part in the rallies, but has since joined the coalition. Olmert, meanwhile, was set to speak on Sunday night at the opening of a Kadima branch in Ashkelon.