Peretz launches Labor campaign, Braverman at his side

All eyes were on Amir Peretz Thursday night, as he kicked off his election campaign with a show of support in Labor party headquarters. More than 1,000 members crowded to shake hands with Peretz, who entered flanked by his wife and new Labor party member Avishay Braverman. The inclusion of Braverman in Peretz's entrance left many wondering if Braverman had already been chosen to hold the second spot in Peretz's campaign. Peretz insisted that positions in his campaign had not been allocated, and that it was important for the party to move together as a whole. "We don't have the luxury of fighting among ourselves," Peretz told the crowd. "We must work together, to move this party forward and launch a revolution in this country." But, as he spoke, the crowded table around him told another story, as new and old members jostled for positions and sat elbow to elbow at a table clearly set for fewer. One Labor member, former prime minister Ehud Barak, was notably absent from the proceedings. Although Barak had not officially announced his role in the upcoming elections, sources close to him said Thursday that he was not likely to run for a Knesset position. Labor party officials stressed, however, that Barak appeared committed to remaining in the Labor party, especially in light of his recent meetings with Peretz. At the table, Braverman and MK Eitan Cabel sat close to Peretz, with MKs Isaac Herzog and Ophir Paz-Pines jammed nearby. The four are rumored to have guaranteed spots in the next Knesset. Shalom Simhon, who received special recognition from several speakers for his work in the Druse and Arab communities, was rumored Thursday night to have been promised a ministerial position "at the very least as important as Minister of Agriculture," said a Labor party official. MK Yuli Tamir was also rumored to have been promised a ministerial position, most probably in the Ministry of Immigration Absorption, said the official. Speaking to the cheering crowd, Peretz used the word "revolution" at least nine times, as he promised the crowd that the time for change had come. Entering to the chorus "We are the champions," the song quickly shifted to the new Amir Peretz campaign jingle, "Amir Peretz, he's our hero, we will follow him." Peretz used the occasion to attack Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, saying, "You know how to look after the security of the country, but we know how to take care of people better than you, how to take care of every child, how to ensure that new immigrants can buy apartments."