Eini Touted as Favorite to Replace Peretz

MK Amir Peretz's election as Labor Party chairman means the race is on for the new chairman of the Histadrut labor federation - a position Peretz has filled for 10 years.

Peretz was planning to resign from the Histadrut at the end of the summer, following the passage of a law in July barring Knesset members from serving as Histadrut chairman. The law goes into effect at the outset of the next Knesset term, which is set to begin after general elections scheduled for November 2006, as of now. However, if early elections are held there will be a much faster vacancy at the Histadrut.

Histadrut insiders are already speculating that Ofer Eini has the best chance of becoming chairman. As head of the trade union department, Eini holds the labor federation's second-most powerful position, and had served as head of the income tax workers' committee.

Other possible contenders include former chairman of the organization of military industry workers, Haim Zweig, and head of the Histadrut's Labor Party faction, Pini Kabalo. Another possibility is Histadrut outsider MK Haim Katz (Likud), head of the Knesset Labor and Welfare Committee.

Histadrut workers fear that Peretz's resignation could result in the implementation of an economic recovery program for the labor federation - which has a NIS 1.2 billion deficit - leading to the dismissal of dozens of workers.