Peretz says Labor will aid Olmert in preserving national stability
Labor MKs plan to try persuading Shimon Peres, who defected to Kadima, to return to the party.
Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz says his party has suspended all its primaries and election activity due to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's health problems. Peretz added that Labor has offered to assist Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in efforts to ensure proper management of the state's affairs.
"These are days of pain," Peretz said. "They are difficult days for all of us. We are all united in prayer for the health and recovery of the prime minister."
"Even though we are indeed at the height of an election campaign, I have ordered my friends not to engage in political activity at such a difficult hour," the Labor chairman said. "The time will come where everone will be able to present our views and positions."
"I will also present an alternative worthy of a ruling party," Peretz said. "The Israeli democracy is a strong one and is capable of emerging from any crisis. Today, it depends on the extent of national responsibility that we all display."
"Israel's military and social government structures are complex and extensive, thus as Labor Party chairman I promise to give the acting prime minister any needed assistance in order to stabilize these structures," Peretz said.
Despite the party's low profile in the wake of the prime minister's hospitalization, Labor MKs are planning to try to bring Shimon Peres and other party figures who joined Kadima back to Labor.
Some Labor members suggested Thursday that the developments may provide them with the opportunity to return to power.
Party leaders refused to comment Thursday on the political implications of Sharon's illness, following Peretz's request that they refrain from speculating and commenting on the prime minister's condition.
One MK said, however, that the sad circumstances have created a chance for Labor to return to power.
"In a week or two, when the time is right ethically, we must call on Labor members who have joined Kadima to come home. Including Peres," he said.
"Sharon was not just the leading figure, but the only glue joining Tzachi Hanegbi and Peres. I believe Kadima, even if it survives as a party, has been dealt a severe blow. People joined Kadima because they saw Sharon as a leader. I don't think they saw Olmert or Livni as leaders."
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Peretz on Thursday and briefed him on the prime minister's condition. Peretz said he would help to stabilize the political system to enable Olmert to do his job.
Peretz asked Labor Secretary General MK Eitan Cabel to suspend the primaries and election campaign in all the party's branches because of Sharon. Numerous gatherings that were planned in preparation for the Labor primaries, due in 11 days, have been canceled.
MK Matan Vilnai urged all the parties to halt the election campaign until the situation stabilizes.
"The only thing we should be doing now is praying for Sharon's life and stabilizing the government," he said.