Yaakov Peri on Tuesday evening officially joined the Yesh Atid party, and was apparently set to be named Yair Lapid’s right-hand man in the new party list.
Lapid announced the former Shin Bet chief’s inclusion in Yesh Atid’s leadership at a press conference in Tel Aviv, adding that Peri “is a significant force who believes, as I do, that we need to change the old political system.”
Peri’s inclusion in Lapid’s newly formed party lends Yesh Atid valuable security credentials in a race against Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which can boast an incumbent prime minister, a former chief of staff (Moshe Ya’alon), and a number of other former high-level security personnel in its ranks. Kadima’s leader Shaul Mofaz is also a former chief of staff. Avi Dichter, an ex-Shin Bet chief, is bidding for a Likud Knesset seat. And yet another chief of staff, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, will be hoping to return to the Knesset with his Atzmaut (Independence) party.
Speaking at the press conference, Peri, 68, related to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program saying that Israel need to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but that we have not yet reached the final stage. He added that it’s up to Israel to act in order for the US and international community to pressure Iran — to push for tougher action, he said, but not to lead it.
After being recruited by the Shin Bet in 1966, Peri served for several decades as an agent in Israel’s domestic-security service, and rose to the organization’s directorship. He served as director of the Shin Bet from 1988 until his retirement in 1995.
Peri, who had earlier served in a senior position in the Shin Bet in the West Bank and Jerusalem, has said that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is in Israel’s best interests. He said in a video uploaded to YouTube by JStreet in July 2012, “We are now in an opportunity [sic]. We have a partner — we have a partner who wants peace, who wants a settlement; it’s about time to call — to initiate — a two-state solution. It is in the interest of Israel. It will give Israel a new future; it will open new opportunities in the Middle East.”
Peri also discussed the perceived “menace” of a two-state solution. “I don’t see that we have a security menace in a new state more than we have now without a state, and every settlement with a two-state solution is defensible.”
Peri, who was briefly a member of Kadima, served as CEO for Israeli cellphone service provider Cellcom from 1995-2003 and has been CEO of Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank for the last nine years. Israel Radio reported Tuesday that the bank has announced he will soon be leaving his position.
Asked at the press conference whether, as one of Israel’s best paid workers, he was an appropriate recruit for Lapid’s party, which is pledged to tackle socio-economic inequalities, Peri said that everything he had achieved had been done through his own hard work. Lapid said seeking to delegitimize Peri as someone who could adjust social and economic inequalities was like trying to bar doctors who had not themselves been ill.
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