Amir Peretz on Friday defended his desertion of the Labor Party for Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, saying it was not the consequence of a personal quarrel with Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich, but rather, of the impression that he was unnecessary and unwanted.
Peretz, a former defense minister and Labor Party leader, defected to Livni’s newly-formed party hours before Thursday night’s deadline for submitting party lists for the January 22 Knesset elections.
“No one wanted my service to the Labor Party and I will not impose myself,” he told Channel 2 in an interview Friday night. He elaborated further in an interview on Channel 10 that “they asked me to stand on the side and stay quiet.”
He added that he continually asked Yachimovich, who won the party leadership from him last year, in what direction the party was going. “I placed myself at the disposal of Yachimovich and the Labor Party and she chose to leave me at the side,” he said.
In defense of his move, the former defense minister and Labor Party leader said that Livni,a former foreign minister and Kadima leader, places the country above all else and that “the Hatnua party will not enter a government with [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
“Yachimovich collaborated with the Netanyahu government, whereas when it offered Livni many temptations, she refused — and therefore I trust [Livni],” he explained.
“I did not earn anything from the switch from Labor to Livni’s party,” he told Channel 2. “I didn’t upgrade myself, rather, I went to a smaller party than Labor.”
“I wish [the Labor Party] the best of luck, and I have no interest in investing in efforts to hurt Labor,” he said. “What’s important now is the fact that there is no alternative to Netanyahu’s rule and for that reason I came” to Hatnua.
Moreover, Peretz condemned what he called the wanton hatred in the Labor Party that drove him to abandon it. Despite this, he said he will do whatever he can after the elections to form a center-left bloc that would incorporate Hatnua and Labor. He added that he would dedicate his efforts to “bringing Likud party supporters over to the center-left bloc.”
“I know how to get many who intend to support Likud to vote for the center-left, to vote for us,” he told Channel 10.
Yachimovich had urged Livni to join her party rather than start a new one and then, when that failed, last week asked Livni to merge Hatnua with Labor for the elections. Some Hebrew media reports claimed Friday that merger discussions foundered because the two party leaders could not agree on arrangements to rotate the leadership, with Livni insisting on serving first as head of a joint list, and Yachimovich refusing. Most polls show Labor heading for 20 or more seats and Livni’s Hatnua for fewer than 10.