Peres wants Labor in the coalition

VP's former policy was to leave coalition following disengagement.

Vice Premier and Labor party head Shimon Peres said Friday that his party would be willing to remain in the government until elections in October 2006, despite calls from a number of Labor party members that Labor leave the coalition. "Just like the national unity government was the only thing that allowed the disengagement from Gaza to succeed, Labor needs to continue to put the interests of the nation ahead of the party," Peres said at a political rally in Haifa this week. "Let's work to unify the ranks of the party, because that is the only way for us to regain the trust of the public." That was the first time Peres mentioned that he intended to remain in the government if he were re-elected chairman of the party. Peres reiterated these comments in interviews Friday with Army Radio and the Ha'aretz daily. Peres' decision marked a change from his former policy, which was to lead the Labor party out of the coalition following disengagement. He said that that his preference for leaving the government was due to disagreement on policy, rather than with the government itself. He said, "I was under incredible criticism when I suggested that we [the Labor party] join the government, and today everybody agrees that our party's entrance proved itself to be the right move." Peres said that if Labor left the government, the public would ask him why he left when he could have battled poverty by holding on a bit longer until the November budget debates. Two weeks after the November 9 leadership race that Peres is favored to win, the Labor party's ideological convention will convene to discuss whether the party should stay in the coalition. Labor Sec.-Gen. Eitan Cabel said that he would propose that the party quit the government.