Peretz, Labor rebels set for showdown

Lead rebels have collected enough signatures to demand a secret ballot.

braverman , labor 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
braverman , labor 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The first major showdown between Labor Party leader Amir Peretz and his opponents inside the party is set to take place at a meeting of the Labor executive in Tel Aviv on Thursday. The five Labor "rebels" - MKs Avishay Braverman, Ami Ayalon, Matan Vilna'i, Collette Avital and Danny Yatom - have gathered enough signatures from executive members to demand a secret ballot at the meeting. Labor's leadership on Wednesday tried to play down the challenge facing Peretz at the meeting, saying the meeting would only deal with procedural issues. The three principal issues on the agenda are: the future of the party's legal counsel, Eldad Yaniv, who was fired by Peretz two weeks ago; the new membership drive and how it's going to affect the composition of the various party forums; and whether party secretary-general Eitan Cabel will remain in his post despite being appointed minister responsible for the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The rebels are demanding that Peretz rescind Yaniv's firing, saying that Peretz was trying to get back at him for casting doubt on the legality of the last round of membership registration, when many new members were alleged to have been signed on illegally by Peretz loyalists. Culture and Science Minister Ophir Paz-Pines is trying to mediate between Peretz and the rebels. The current proposal is for Yaniv to submit his resignation but be allowed to stay on for a few months to supervise the membership drive. Peretz and Cabel have agreed to this demand and their aides said yesterday that following the compromise, there is no real reason for any acrimony at Thursday's meeting. The rebels are also demanding a vote on Cabel retaining the secretary-general post. They say that as a minister, he will have no time to look after party affairs and that he is only working to advance Peretz's interests. They are also demanding that the party vote on suspending the registration drive and postponing the appointment of a new central committee. Their concern is that the new central committee will be loaded with Peretz supporters, at the expense of other factions in the party. An MK loyal to Peretz said yesterday, "It's all an artificial drama. We've reached a respectable compromise over the legal counsel, and with regard to the other issues, we can also reach a reasonable agreement. Cabel will remain secretary-general, there's no reason to get rid of him so quickly." He accused the five rebels of being "disgruntled at not being appointed ministers. That's the only reason for what they're doing, besides that there is no ideological common ground between them."