Labor Chief Amir Peretz Says Won't Run for Party Leadership in Next Israeli Election

Meanwhile, three lawmakers have left Netanyahu's Likud to join rival Gideon Sa'ar's party, New Hope

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Labor Chairman Amir Peretz speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 17, 2020.
Labor Chairman Amir Peretz speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. Credit: Adina Walman / Knesset Spokesperson's Office
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Labor Party head Amir Peretz said Wednesday that he won't be running for party leadership in Israel's next election slated for late March.

"At this time, the Labor Party must rejuvenate and pick a new chairman and a new leadership," Peretz wrote on Facebook.

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The Knesset automatically dissolved on Tuesday at midnight, as the legally mandated deadline to pass Israel's 2020 state budget expired, triggering a fourth election cycle in less than two years.

Peretz did not mention whether he would run with Labor in the election. However, at the beginning of the month, Peretz announced his intention to run for the presidency. President Reuven Rivlin's seven-year term will end on July 27, 2021.  

Despite repeated campaign pledges not to do so, Peretz joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unity government in May and served as economy minister. The move led the already troubled party to lose many of its remaining supporters.

Recent polls have projected that Labor will not break the electoral threshold required to win seats in the Knesset, a stunning downfall for the once mighty party, which helped found the state of Israel and ruled in its first three decades.

Earlier on Wednesday, Knesset member Sharren Haskel announced that she is leaving the Likud party and joining Gideon Sa’ar’s new party, the third from the party to do so, after Yifat Shasha-Biton and Michal Shir Segman. Following her announcement, she resigned from the Knesset.

Her resignation and linkup with Sa’ar’s New Hope party comes after she chose not to show up for a Knesset vote on Monday on a measure that would have extended the life of the current government, despite its failure to pass the 2020 budget by the Tuesday deadline mandated by law.

On Tuesday, Likud lawmaker Michal Shir Segman voted against the measure, contributing to its defeat by a margin of 49-47. She too resigned from parliament and announced her support for Sa’ar.

Last week, Likud lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton announced that she too would be joining Sa’ar’s party and would be the No. 2 on the New Hope party slate. If Sa’ar becomes prime minister, Shasha-Biton would be deputy prime minister, the announcement said, and she would also head a ministerial committee on social welfare issues.

Prior to her announcement, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, of the Derech Eretz faction, announced their support for Sa’ar. In the previous election, they ran on Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan slate and broke with him after Gantz decided to form a unity government with Netanyahu following the March 2 election. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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