Amir Peretz Rejoins Israel's Labor Party After Three-year Hiatus

Former defense minister welcomed by Isaac Herzog, though the possibility that Peretz might challenge Herzog for party leadership in the near future created a certain tension in the room.

Amir Peretz and Isaac Herzog, Feb. 8, 2016.
Emil Salman

Former defense minister Amir Peretz rejoined the Labor Party on Monday, three years after he left it to stand for elections under the banner of the now-defunct Hatnuah faction.

Peretz's return was welcomed warmly by Labor leaders during a ceremony in the party's caucus room in the Knesset, where he formally signed his membership papers..

The old-new Labor member received a hug from opposition leader Isaac Herzog, though the possibility that Peretz might challenge Herzog for the party leadership in the near future created a certain tension in the room.

"When Amir said that he would do everything to establish a new government under my leadership after the elections, I am sure that Bibi understands he has something to be concerned about," Herzog said during the ceremony.

Peretz's associates were quick to clarify after the ceremony that he "has not promised not to compete against Herzog." Peretz, they added, "has come to assist the party but he is liable to weigh his options ahead of the next election."

Peretz's return was welcomed by Knesset caucus chairperson Merav Michaeli and former party leader Shelly Yacimovich, who could reestablish her previous partnership with the man who was once her mentor.