Vilna’i: Peres is the Likud’s dream

Launches ‘negative’ campaign for Labor leadership.

vilnaiscratcheshead298AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A victory by incumbent Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres in the November 9 leadership race would be a dream come true for the Likud, Peres’s challenger, Science Minister Matan Vilna’i said at a press conference in Labor’s Tel Aviv headquarters Monday. Vilna’i’s advisers said polls indicated that Vilna’i’s best chance would be to prevent Peres from obtaining the 40 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a two-man run-off. They said Vilna’i would try to enliven the Labor race to prevent Peres and Histadrut chairman Amir Peretz from quietly reaching a second round of voting. “You are probably saying, ‘Who cares about this Labor election that has gone on for more than a year when it is clear that Peres will win this race and lose the general election,’” Vilna’i said. “But it is important because Labor is still the only alternative to the Likud.” Vilna’i unveiled a new negative campaign against Peres and Peretz. He sent Labor members a flyer warning that Peres would bring a guaranteed loss in the general election and Labor under Peretz would become a small niche party. “Can anyone put their hand on their heart and honestly say that they believe Peres will be prime minister in four years?” Vilna’i said. “Is there any difference between this election and the other five when we gave him a chance to lead the party? Peres is a shadow that hovers over Labor and doesn’t let the party blossom and move on.” Vilna’i accused Peres of “suddenly discovering that there are poor people in Israel.” He said neither Peres nor Peretz, in their many years in leadership positions, succeeded in solving the poverty problem. “A win for Amir Peretz is the wet dream of Shinui,” Vilna’i said. “No one really believes that the public can support him.” Vilna’i’s campaign manager, Etai Ben-Horin, said Vilna’i would tell Labor members he was the only candidate who could build a large centrist party and remind them that Labor had only won elections when it appealed to centrist voters. But when asked whether he believed the Oslo process was a mistake, a key question for centrist voters, Vilna’i said no. “Oslo was not a mistake, even though there were blunders along the way as there are in any process,” he said. “Without Oslo, there wouldn’t be disengagement and centrist voters understand this.” Asked how long Labor should remain in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s coalition, Vilna’i said: “I think the elections will be on time in November 2006 but, unlike Peres, I don’t think we have an obligation to be in the government until then.”