Peretz signs up 90% of IMI workers

The true strength of Defense Minister Amir Peretz and his four challengers for the Labor Party leadership will be known for the first time next week after the full list of Labor's 106,739 members will be released to the candidates and the press. Peretz's associates are anxiously awaiting the first polls of the updated registration drive that doubled the party's membership in order to gauge his chances of winning re-election and remaining defense minister. Several numbers obtained by The Jerusalem Post revealed that Peretz may have a better chance of winning the race than previously expected. For instance, in Mitzpe Ramon, where Peretz's sister is the mayor, Labor has 564 members, almost as many people who voted for Labor in last year's election, 639. In Peretz's home town of Sderot, 1470 people are Labor members, compared to 2161 people who voted for the party. Defense officials said that 2700 out of Israel Military Industries's 3000 workers recently joined the party. Peretz reportedly struck a deal with the workers union of IMI under which IMI workers would support his candidacy in return for him blocking the privatization of the government company. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to privatize IMI, which is in major debt, or merge the company with another defense firm, such as Rafael or Israel Aerospace Industries, but Peretz has blocked the move. Peretz's spokesman said there was nothing wrong with the number of Labor members in IMI. "They are allowed to be members of a party," the spokesman said. "They have always been members of parties, since long before Amir Peretz ran for anything."