Peretz Wants Ayalon to Join Him in Labor Party Challenge to Barak

Former Labor Party chairman MK Amir Peretz is urging cabinet minister Ami Ayalon to challenge Ehud Barak again for the party leadership before the next general election. Peretz is adamant about going up against Barak himself, but he wants to coordinate his run with Ayalon.

Peretz has met with Ayalon a few times recently, in an effort to persuade him to break his promise not to challenge Barak in the next election. Ayalon made this promise after losing to Barak in last June's party primary.

Ayalon is considering his response.

Peretz told Ayalon that he will run against Barak again once new general elections are called, with or without Ayalon.

Peretz would like to rekindle his political alliance with Ayalon from the last primary. To that end, he is proposing a "coordinated candidacy" that could entail his support for Ayalon in the event of a second round of voting.

Ayalon's associates even claim that Peretz has offered to take himself out of the race in favor of Ayalon, and that Ayalon has not yet given Peretz an answer. Peretz's supporters, however, deny that any such proposal was made.

The party constitution stipulates that party primaries must be held prior to Knesset elections. The increasing frequency of party primaries in recent years led Labor leaders to agree not to hold primaries before the next general election, but the constitution was not amended to accommodate the decision.

Peretz has told supporters that he is adamant about challenging Barak even if public opinion polls give him only 4 percent of the vote, in order to offer an alternative to "Barak's dictatorial rule of the party."

Peretz is seeking to exploit the tension between Ayalon and Barak over what Ayalon's camp calls "Barak's breaking his promises of full cooperation." They are referring to Barak's failure to meet and consult with Ayalon regularly or to give him the powers that were discussed when Barak joined the cabinet last September.

Peretz has been urging Ayalon to run against Barak, citing Barak's exploitation of Ayalon's promise in order to render the Ayalon camp impotent and "grind Ayalon into dust."

Sources in Peretz's circle told Haaretz that Barak does not consider himself bound to compete for the chairmanship again and that he "is thumbing his nose at everyone" and "turning Ayalon into a shadow of his former self. Ayalon declined to comment.