Peretz denies buying Safed votes

Defense Minister Amir Peretz promised to provide NIS 12 million in funding from his ministry to the city of Safed in return for help winning votes in last week's Labor Party primary from the city's mayor, Yishai Maimon, Channel 1 reported Tuesday. The report said that Maimon, who is a member of the National Religious Party (NRP,) campaigned for Peretz and that many NRP members in the city joined Labor to support him. Peretz, who recently came to Safed and visited graves of tzaddikim (sages,) won the most votes in the city. Spokesmen for Peretz denied the report. According to the report, Maimon became involved after a local member of Labor and NRP named Moshe Mazuz told him that Peretz promised him NIS 600,000 from government coffers for his non-profit organization Hapoel Safed. Elsewhere, Peretz campaigned in Ofakim Tuesday with MK Ami Ayalon, in the first joint appearance of the two men since Peretz endorsed Ayalon in the June 12 runoff race. In a speech in Ofakim, Peretz bashed Ayalon's competition in the runoff, former prime minister Ehud Barak. "Whoever wants to serve the public cannot justify leaving the public sector to get rich," Peretz said. Peretz hinted that Barak's anti-Peretz campaign in kibbutzim was racist. Ayalon reached out to Peretz's Sephardi voters in the development town and reminded them that Barak had to apologize to them in the past for Labor mistreating them. "Labor won't go back to the days when we had to apologize to Sephardim," Ayalon said. "Peretz's endorsement of me is a sign that Labor is moving forward." Barak, meanwhile, spent the day meeting supporters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.