Peres considering staying out of next Knesset

Amid a day of comings and goings in the Labor Party, Shimon Peres remained on the fence on Wednesday, postponing his decision about whether he will run for the next Knesset with Labor. "Loyalty to a party has always been important to me," Peres said foll owing a meeting with his successor as Labor Party chairman, Amir Peretz. "But I am in no hurry. I am holding off on making any decisions at the moment." After the meeting an aide to Peretz told reporters that the meeting signified Peres's commitment to L abor, launching speculation that Peres had made a decision to run with Labor. Afterwards, however, Peres told The Jerusalem Post that no decision had been made. Peres has several options ahead of him. Aside from joining Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new party or remaining in Labor, he has also suggested that he might remain outside of any political affiliation and accept a ministerial post from whomever becomes prime minister. The long-time Labor party member, who left the party once in 1965 to j oin a new party founded by David Ben-Gurion, suffered a surprising loss to Peretz during the Labor primaries last month. The two, however, said their meeting Wednesday was amiable and promised to meet again in coming days. Before their meeting, long time Labor MK Haim Ramon announced that he was resigning from that party to join Sharon's new party. Ramon is the only Labor MK to join Sharon. Across the Knesset, however, Labor Ministers packed their bags for a different type of departure as their resignat ions from their ministerial posts went into effect. The ministers, who resigned between 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Monday, had 48 hours before their resignations became official. Many, such Interior Minister Ophir Paz-Pines, Construction and Housing Mini ster Isaac Herzog, and Communications Minister Dalia Itzik worked until the last moment, signing orders into effect before packing up their personal belongings. "As I sit here at my desk, writing letters to everyone I work with at the ministry, I am tryi ng to finish as many last-minute things as possible," said Paz-Pines. "I took part in so many things here but I am also leaving many things unfinished." "I am not sure if I will miss the long hours though; it will be nice to sleep in past 7 a.m. for a cha nge." Meanwhile, on the opposite side of Jerusalem, Herzog packed up portraits of his father Chaim Herzog, and grandfather, former chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Isaac Herzog, from his office in the Housing Ministry. "There are things that I am upset I could not complete," said Herzog. "But I am proud of our ministry, with every day that has passed I saw this office work hard for our country." Colleagues in the ministries recognized both Herzog and Paz-Pines for the youth and energy that they brought to the office. In all, seven Labor ministers resigned: Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Minister of National Infrastructure Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Minister of Communications Dalia Itzik, Minister of the Environment Shalom Simhon, Minister-without-Portfolio Ramon, Herzog and Paz-Pines. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report. ›e