Economy Minister Amir Peretz announced on Wednesday that he is stepping down as the leader of the Labor party.
Peretz’s decision came as polls show the once leading Labor party failing to pass the minimum vote threshold in the upcoming elections, the fourth elections in Israel in two years.
“Out of a sense of responsibility, I’m announcing that I won’t be leading the Labor party in the upcoming elections,” Peretz wrote on his Facebook page. “At this time, the Labor party needs to undergo a renewal and elect a new chairman and leadership.”
The Labor party, which ruled Israel for 30 years, dwindled down to only three MK in the March election, Peretz, Welfare Minister Itzik Shuli and MK Merav Michaeli, who joined the opposition due to her fierce opposition to Peretz’s decision to join the Likud/Blue and White unity government despite his promise not to join a Netanyahu government.
Peretz even had his mustache shaved during the election campaign so voters could more easily “read his lips” in his commitment not to join a Netanyahu government. He defended his decision to join the unity government in his post on Wednesday, saying that he made the decision, despite paying a high political price, following Gantz’s “brave decision” to form a unity government due to the unprecedented worldwide crisis.
Peretz, 68, is the longest-serving MK in the Knesset.
Following the announcement, the Labor party offered the leadership of the party to Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White). There have been rumors that the Blue and White party may be disbanding and party leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi may be resigning from politics.
Nissenkorn has also reportedly received an offer to join Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who is seeking to establish his own party ahead of the upcoming elections.
Despite Peretz’s announcement he is stepping down as the leader of Labor, he is not leaving politics altogether yet. In December, he announced that he is joining the run for the presidency to replace Reuven Rivlin, who is stepping down in the summer after completing his seven-year term.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)