Newly elected Labor leader open to letting Barak take helm of a joint slate

Two days after winning party primary, Amir Peretz says he’ll consider any move that will help create a large left-wing political bloc to replace Netanyahu

Then defense minister Ehud Barak, right, sits next to MK Amir Peretz as he attends the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in the Knesset on March 19, 2012. (Uri Lenz/Flash 90)
Then defense minister Ehud Barak, right, sits next to MK Amir Peretz as he attends the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in the Knesset on March 19, 2012. (Uri Lenz/Flash 90)

Newly elected Labor Party leader Amir Peretz signaled Thursday that he is willing to do whatever it takes to create a large leftist bloc ahead of the upcoming September elections, including stepping aside to let former prime minister Ehud Barak lead a joint slate of their two parties.

Both Peretz and Barak have previously led Labor; Barak wrested control of the party from Peretz in 2007.

“Creating a bloc that opens the possibility for a coalition with additional parties is my prime goal,” Peretz said during an interview with Channel 12 news.

When asked if he would consider being second in line on a joint slate with Barak’s new party, Peretz indicated that he was open to the idea.

“I will consider any measure that will benefit the country, that will create a chance to build a large [political] bloc that will replace the Netanyahu government,” he said.

“What interests me is how to build an electoral alternative — but also an ideological alternative,” Peretz added. “Both things need to come together. That is what I have in mind and we will certainly examine what is the best way.”

Nitzan Horowitz, the newly voted head of left-wing Meretz party, reacts as he makes a victory speech, after winning the party leadership at a vote in Tel Aviv, June 27, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Both Peretz and Barak have also served as defense minister, Peretz in 2006-2007 and Barak, a former commander of the IDF, in 2007-2013.

On Wednesday, Peretz said he had already been in contact with a number of party leaders, including Barak, who last month announced his return to politics with a new, as-yet unnamed party. Barak, who retired from political life in 2013 until his recent comeback, is reportedly pushing to form an alliance of center-left parties ahead of the September 17 vote.

Barak’s envisioned tie-up, which was reported last week by Channel 12 and the Kan public broadcaster, would comprise his party, Labor, Meretz, and Blue and White.

Barak wished Peretz luck after he was confirmed the winner of the Labor Party primary earlier this week and told Peretz: “I believe we can do what is required and stand together, alongside other forces, to put Israel back on the right track.”

Nitzan Horowitz, who won his party primary last week, also offered his “congratulations to my friend Amir Peretz” and said Wednesday: “We at [left-wing] Meretz are prepared to discuss possible cooperation for the success of the Israeli left. I expect to speak to Amir in the next few days.”

Peretz soundly trounced his rivals Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shaffir during Labor’s primary Tuesday, but will face an uphill battle to bring Labor back to the position it once held as a leading Israeli political party.

The party in recent years has seen its fortunes sink amid infighting, near-constant leadership changes and a slew of other parties challenging its ground on the center-left.

On Wednesday, Peretz told Army Radio that he is aiming to win 15 seats in the September elections, up from the six seats Labor won in April’s vote, its worst ever result in a national election.

After winning the previous election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a majority coalition and so dissolved parliament while calling fresh elections for September.

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