In Wake of Haaretz Report, Histadrut Relocates Peretz Farewell Bash to Modest' K. Malakhi

The Histadrut labor federation's farewell from Labor Party chairman and would-be prime minister MK Amir Peretz, who will be ending his term as head of the uber-union on January 2, has been moved from Tel Aviv to Kiryat Malakhi, the bash's organizing committee - headed by Histadrut director general Gadi Lotan - decided at a meeting yesterday.

The party in Peretz's honor had been slated for a huge rainproof tent that was to be erected on the lawn's of the Histadrut's Va'ad Hapoel building, and had been expected to cost more than NIS 1 million. Over one thousand guests were expected - all Histadrut staffers (for whom it was a required event), the major unions and various invitees from across the country.

However, in the wake of a Haaretz report on the details of the party, Histadrut officials decided to cancel the Tel Aviv event.

The labor federation also came under internal criticism for planning to hold the elaborate event in the midst of the Knesset election campaign, in which Peretz is a candidate. Histadrut staffers also called the celebration "grating" in light of the fact that most of the trade union's employees haven't received raises in a long time and many have been forced into early retirement as part of efficiency measures aimed at gaining control of the federation's burgeoning NIS 1.3 billion deficit.

"To keep tongues from wagging, we located two relatively modest options for holding the celebration," the deputy head of the Histadrut's Trade Union Division, Meir Elbaz, said yesterday. "One was in a Mishan old-age home in Givatayim, and the other was a Histadrut club in Kiryat Malkhi that has 450 seats. It was decided to use Kiryat Malakhi, an underprivileged area. I am sure holding the party in that town will garner positive feedback."

According to Elbaz, the event will also honor Ofer Eini's entry into the chairman's office and the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Histadrut.

Elbaz added that the day before the Kiryat Malakhi celebration, farewell ceremonies would be held with Peretz and representatives of each of the thirty districts who will be brought in by bus to the Va'ad Hapoel building. Elbaz refused to comment on reports that the event will be costing hundreds of thousands of shekels, but remarked: "A few years ago, we hosted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a special tent set up on the Histadrut grounds and that event alone cost about a quarter of a million shekels."