Amir Peretz Announces Bid to Regain Labor Leadership

Former union chief and defense minister says he is motivated by need to return Labor to central position on political map.

Former Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz officially announced Tuesday that he will seek to regain the leadership of the party, running against other Labor leading lights Shelly Yachimovich and Yitzhak Herzog.

"I will present an comprehensive program to deal with [Israel's] social collapse – a social Iron Dome," Peretz said at the Tel Aviv press conference to announce his candidacy, referring to Israel's missile defense system deployed in the south.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz
Tess Scheflan

 "I have come to the conclusion that this is the moment, this is the time and as such I am declaring my candidacy for the Labor leadership," Peretz told reporters. "I am motivated by the perceived need to bring Labor back to a central position on the political map and facilitate the creation of a solid bloc to counter the right-wing. Only in this way will we build an alternative to Netanyahu's rule, which is leading us into stagnation and erosion in every aspect of our lives."

Peretz, joined for his announcement by MKs Eitan Cabel, Ghaleb Majadele and Daniel Ben Simon, also touched on his controversial stint as defense minister during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. No one is free of mistakes, he said, but added that he "can look every [Israeli] in the eye and say that I was not driven by personal considerations. Most of the nation knew that this was a rescue conflict."

A former union chief, Peretz won the leadership of the Labor Party in 2005, defeating Shimon Peres, who subsequently quit the party to join Ariel Sharon's new Kadima movement. Peretz  became defense minister in May 2006 in the government of then-Kadima leader Ehud Olmert. Along with Olmert and then-army chief Dan Halutz, Peretz came under a great deal of criticism for his handling of the 2006 war. He was beaten by Ehud Barak in a party leadership race in 2007.