Labor party leader Amir Peretz made his first clean-shaven TV appearance in 47 years on Sunday, insisting that shaving his iconic mustache would allow Israelis to better “read his lips” and see that he is sincere in his vow not to sit in a government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a prime-time reveal on Channel 12 — billed as “Amir Peretz as you’ve never seen him before” — the Labor leader went as far as to claim that whittling off his whiskers could “bring back hope to the State of Israel.”
“For 47 years, I’ve gone everywhere with my mustache,” Peretz began in the television interview. “In 2002, the Association of the Deaf in Israel contacted me, and that was the first time I trimmed it, because they couldn’t read my lips and understand me.”
The upper lip-exposed Labor leader declared that this would no longer be an issue, while once again dismissing reports that he is gearing up to enter a Netanyahu-led coalition after the September elections.
“I decided to remove my mustache so that all of Israel will understand exactly what I’m saying and will be able to read my lips — I won’t sit with Bibi,” said Peretz, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
Last week, Likud MK David Bitan poured additional fuel onto the speculation, when he predicted that Labor would have no choice but to join a Likud government after the national vote next month.
“A lot of very respectable people in the media as well as people in my own political camp believe in this ‘deal.’ People who never believed Netanyahu were buying into it,” Peretz lamented.
After the 2013 election, Peretz joined Netanyahu’s government as a member of Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, going on to serve as environmental protection minister. However, he resigned the following year after peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority broke down.
Ahead of last April’s elections, Peretz’s predecessor Avi Gabbay repeatedly declared he would not join a Netanyahu government and called on the leaders of various other parties to pledge to do the same. However, in the final hours before the deadline that the Likud leader was given to form a government, Netanyahu held intensive talks with the Labor chairman in order to convince him to join his coalition.
Shortly after details of the negotiations were leaked to the press, Gabbay announced that he would not join the coalition. This year’s second round of national elections were called shortly thereafter. Gabbay left political life and was replaced by Peretz as Labor chief.