Amir Peretz

Amir Peretz


Date of birth = Birth date and age|1952|3|9|df=y
Place of birth = flagicon|MoroccoBoujad, Morocco
Year of Aliyah = 1956
Date of death =
Knesset(s) = 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th,
16th, 17th (current)
Party = Labour
Former parties = One Nation
Gov't roles = Minister of Defence
Deputy Prime Minister

Amir Peretz ( _he. עמיר פרץ, _ar. عمير بيريتز; born 9 March, 1952) is an Israeli politician and member of the Knesset. He is a former Defense Minister of Israel and former leader of the Israeli Labour Party, having left those positions in June 2007.

Peretz is the former chairman of the Histadrut trade union federation and defeated Shimon Peres in the primary elections for the Labour leadership in November 9, 2005.He led the Labour Party to a second place showing in the 2006 Israeli elections. He was sworn in as Defense Minister [] along with the rest of the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on May 4, 2006.

He was defeated by Ehud Barak for the Labour leadership on June 12, 2007 and resigned from the position of Defense Minister.

Early life

Amir Peretz was born as Armand Peretz in the town of Boujad, Morocco. His father was head of the Jewish community in Boujad and owned a petrol station. The family emigrated to Israel when Morocco won independence in 1956. They were settled in the development town of Sderot, where Peretz graduated from high school.

He served in the Israel Defense Forces as the brigade Ordnance officer of the 202nd paratroopers brigade and reached the rank of captain. On April 22, 1974, Peretz was badly wounded as a result of an accident at the Mitla Pass. He spent a year in the hospital recuperating. After leaving the hospital, he bought a farm in the village of Nir Akiva. Still in a wheelchair, he began growing vegetables and flowers for export. During this period he met his wife Ahlama and they married. They have four children.

In 1983, answering a call made by friends, Peretz ran for the office of mayor of the town of Sderot, as candidate of the Israel Labour Party. At only thirty years of age he won a victory which ended a long period of dominance of the town's politics by the right-wing Likud party and the National Religious Party. It was the first in a series of local councils which passed back to Labour control in the late 1980s. As mayor, he strongly emphasized education and worked to improve previously fractious relations with the kibbutzim in the area.

Histadrut and One Nation

In 1988 he was elected a member of the Knesset - the Israeli parliament. In 1994, after failing in a previous bid for Histadrut leadership, Peretz joined forces with Haim Ramon to contest control of the then powerful trade union federation. They ran on an independent list against the favoured candidate of then Labour leader Yitzhak Rabin. They won, and Peretz became Ramon's deputy at the Histadrut. This isolated Peretz within the Labour Party. He became chairman of Histadrut in December 1995, when Ramon reentered the cabinet following Rabin's assassination. During his early years at the helm of the Histadrut, Peretz was regarded as a militant firebrand, with an easy hand on the trigger of general strikes. Sometimes the pretext for declaring a general strike would be an inopportune statement by the finance minister, as had been the case with Ya'akov Ne'eman in 1996.

However, in his later years as head of Histadrut, Peretz was seen as becoming much more moderate, as he moved toward a potential run for national office. During the tenure of Benjamin Netanyahu as finance minister (February 2003-August 2005), Peretz was fairly cooperative with the government in a series of structural and financial reforms that moved Israel towards a more market-oriented economy. He has remarked that "the most effective strike is the one that didn't occur".

In 1999 Peretz resigned from the Labour Party to form his own party, One Nation ("Am Ekhad"). The party won two seats in the Knesset in the 1999 elections, and three in 2003. As Labour's fortunes changed with the Likud Party in government, and Israel's social programmes being dismantled by the market-oriented reforms of finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Peretz became increasingly popular with Israel's working-class. By the start of 2004 he was being talked of as a "white knight who will rescue Labour from oblivion". [] After protracted negotiations with then-Labour Party leader Shimon Peres and other party leaders, One Nation merged with Labour in the summer of 2004.

Labour Party leadership

After the merger, Peretz ran for the leadership of the Labour Party on a platform of ending the coalition with Likud, led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and reasserting Labour's traditional socialist economic policies. Peretz narrowly defeated Peres, the incumbent leader, in the election on 9 November 2005.


During his campaign Peretz declared that "within two years of taking office I will have eradicated child poverty in Israel". [ [,,1736316,00.html Peretz] - The Guardian] [ General secretary of the Israeli unions becomes leader of the Israeli Labour Party] - 15 November, 2005] Notwithstanding, he has reiterated his commitment to a market economy. For his movement in latter years towards "third way" positions, as well as for his earthy and warm personality, Peretz has been compared to Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

In matters concerning relations with the Palestinians and the Arab world, Peretz was seen as holding dovish positions. [ General secretary of the Israeli unions becomes leader of the Israeli Labour Party] - 15 November, 2005] He was one of the early leaders of the Peace Now movement. [cite news|url=|title=Lebanon II: The first war run by Peace Now|date=2006-08-02|accessdate=2006-08-09] He was also, in the 1980s, a member of a group of eight Labour party Knesset members, dubbed "the Eight" and led by Yossi Beilin, who tried to set a liberal agenda for the party in matters concerning the peace process with the Palestinians, connecting the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians with the failure to solve Israel's most pressing social ills.

Peretz saw an intrinsic connection between a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the resolving of Israel's internal social tensions. He argued that the resources allotted to the settlements in the West Bank had diverted funds that could have helped to solve social problems throughout Israel. He described the conflict as having mutated Israeli politics, so that the traditional left-right distinctions did not hold: Instead of supporting a social-democratic left which would advance their cause, the lower classes, mostly of Middle Eastern Jewish origins, were diverted to the right by the fanning of nationalist tendencies; Concurrently, the left in Israel was usurped by the well-to-do, so that the Labour party had ironically become elitist. [ [ Interview in Ha'aretz] - Haaretz.]

Peretz has also backed direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. [ [ "Peretz: Talk to Hamas, free Barghouti," Jerusalem Post, 3 May 2008] ]


Peretz won 42% of the votes as against 40% for Peres and 17% for former defence minister and former party leader Benjamin Ben-Eliezer . After winning this election, Peretz resigned from his post at Histadrut to focus on the campaign to become the prime minister. In fulfillment of Peretz's pledge to withdraw Labour from the Likud-led coalition government, the party withdrew its support for the government on 11 November and all Labour Party cabinet ministers resigned. This action deprived the government of its majority in the Knesset and resulted in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calling a new election for March 28, 2006. Shortly thereafter, Sharon and much of his Cabinet left Likud to form a new party, Kadima.


Peretz was widely criticised for abandoning the social agenda which headlined his campaign.He was accused of choosing to undertake the Israeli Ministry of Defense portfolio merely because of its prestigiousness and that he should have demanded the Ministry of Finance portfolio that better corresponds with his and the Labour Party social agenda.

His performance as a Minister of Defense during the Second Lebanon War was deemed to be poor by the public which led to an early elections for the Labour Party leadership.He was defeated by former Labour Party Chairman and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and chose to resign from his post.

Election and Government

If Labour had won the 2006 election, Amir Peretz would have become the first non-Ashkenazi prime minister in Israel's history. Instead, Labour placed a strong second behind the Kadima Party, led by Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert. Labour agreed to join a coalition government led by Olmert and the Kadima Party. In the negotiations for the formation of the government, Peretz, after attempting to gain the finance ministry, became Defense Minister, replacing Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) in the post. Peretz also received the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

Minister of Defense 2006-2007

During his term as Defense Minister, on July 12, the second Lebanon war broke between Israel and Lebanon, following the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah from Israel's northern border. Peretz, together with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have decided to respond aggressively and launched a campaign against the Lebanese militia of Hezbollah. For 33 days the attacked were carried on via air and land. In the last 48 hours of the war, Peretz pushed for a massive ground operation. Land troops were flown by helicopters to seize the ground between the Israeli-Lebanese border and the river Litani. In this operation 33 Israeli soldiers were killed, and much anger was created amongst the Israeli public. The committee that was established by the government to investigate the war, the Winograd Committee, found that the decision to launch this operation was rational and justifiable under the current circumstances. After losing the internal elections in the Labour party to Ehud Barak, Peretz quit the defense ministry on June 2007.

Appointing the first Arab Muslim Minister in the Israeli Government

During his period as the leader of the Labour Party, Peretz has nominated an Arab Muslim Israeli, Raleb Majadele, to the Minister of culture, science and sports. His nomination was a break through in the fragile relationship between the Arab-Israeli population the Israeli government. This nomination was criticized by the right wing party of Israel Beytenu headed by Avigdor Liberman.


External links

* [ Peretz Website]
* [ Profile in Forward, 2003]
* [ Interview with Peretz, June 2005]
* [ Peretz victory changes political mood, November 2005]
* [,7340,L-3167142,00.html Who is Amir Peretz?,Ynet news] , November 11 2005
* [ BBC News profile article]
* [,7340,L-3285433,00.html Israel's defense minister, Amir Peretz Profile]

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