Peretz: Peres will stay in Labor

New Labor chairman: I won't negotiate with Likud over staying in government.

amir peretz 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
amir peretz 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Newly elected Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz and his predecessor Vice Premier Shimon Peres met on Friday in Peres's Tel Aviv office and agreed to work out their differences. Peres told Peretz that he had not yet decided his political future but he made clear that he would not leave Labor to form a new political party with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The two agreed to meet again a week from Sunday, when Peres will reveal whether he will accept Peretz's offer to be his number two in the party or retire from politics. "I accept the verdict of the race," Peres told reporters after the meeting. "I had a part in bringing Amir to the party and I will do everything possible to ensure that Labor will benefit from Peretz's leadership. We have to look at the future and work together. It is unacceptable that anyone will boycott or anyone will be boycotted. I don't want there to be pain and bitterness." Peretz said that Peres told him he wouldn't join any other party or embark on any new "political adventure." Peres said that he still needed time to contemplate his next step during which time he would suspend himself from political activity. "It's natural that I want to take a few days to think how best I can contribute," Peres told reporters. "No matter what, I intend to choose whatever path is best for the party and the state. I have been a member of Labor for 30 years. That's how I have always been and that's what I will be." The meeting between the two men nearly got canceled because Peres's ally Communications Minister Dalia Itzik insisted on attending. Peretz refused to allow Itzik to attend, saying that "the days of mediators in the party are over." Peretz canceled the meeting but Peres gave in shortly thereafter and agreed to meet Peretz without Itzik. The meeting was made possible by a belated congratulatory phone call from Peres to Peretz on Friday morning. Peres refrained from calling on Thursday because he was angry with him for running against him and for alleged irregularities in the vote. Peres did not attend a meeting of the Labor faction earlier on Friday at Labor's Tel Aviv headquarters. Peretz's nemesis, former prime minister Ehud Barak, who usually attends faction meetings, was not invited. In the festive meeting, Peretz asked the faction to support his efforts to take Labor out of the coalition and initiate early elections. He promised that the next year would be a turning point for the Labor Party and an opportunity to win the leadership of the country. "Give me an advance of credit," Peretz said. "If I don't succeed, I know I will be held responsible. Give me a chance." Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel announced in the meeting that the Labor convention would meet in three weeks to officially approve Labor's departure from the government.