Peretz to challenge Barak in primary

Ousted defense minister intends to fight for Labor's crown ahead of the next general election.

peretz barak labor laugh (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
peretz barak labor laugh
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite the positive meeting between Labor Chairman Ehud Barak and his predecessor MK Amir Peretz on Thursday, sources close to Peretz said Sunday that the two men had not fully reconciled and that Peretz still supported holding another Labor leadership race ahead of the next general election. Peretz is expected to call publicly for Labor to hold its sixth primary in seven years following the July 15 vote for the party's central committee and other institutions. That internal election is expected to strengthen Peretz's socioeconomic bloc in the party. "From Peretz's perspective, he is always in favor of enabling primaries and the democratic process," a source close to Peretz said. Party officials said Labor's constitution required that a primary be held ahead of a general election to select its candidate for prime minister. A vote was passed in the Labor central committee following Barak's election in June 2007 canceling the primary, but it was later found that the vote was illegal and that the central committee had no power to make such a decision. Labor executive committee member Dani Cohen said he would push for a leadership contest in the party's institutions and internal courts. Cohen has led many recent efforts to force Barak to lead the party democratically, and he was instrumental in forcing next month's election to replace the members of the party's institutions. Cohen said many MKs had said in closed conversations that Barak should be replaced, but they had been afraid to issue such a statement publicly. He said the polls indicating that the party would fall from 19 seats to 14 in the next general election were proof of the urgency of such a move. "Barak will have to be replaced, because he doesn't have the trust of the public and he gives us no chance to beat [opposition leader Binyamin] Netanyahu and the Likud," Cohen said. "We're crashing in the polls with him, he is not uniting the party and he has no agenda." Cohen supported Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon in last year's Labor leadership race. Ayalon said he fully supported Barak and that it would be a mistake to disrupt party unity ahead of the next general election. An adviser to Barak responded that efforts to replace him were "not serious" and that the party was unified behind him. By contrast, in Kadima, efforts to replace Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as party chairman will continue on Monday. The Kadima faction will convene at the Knesset to set a July 10 date for the next Kadima council meeting, where a date is expected to be set for a Kadima leadership primary. Kadima's membership drive is continuing despite the decision last month by the party's steering committee to end it on Monday. Only the council is empowered to set a date to end the drive, which will set the list of members eligible to vote in the primary expected to be held in early September.