Amir Peretz
Overview
 
Amir Peretz is an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i politician and member of the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 for the Labour Party. He is a former Defense Minister of Israel and former leader of the Labour Party, having left those positions in June 2007.

Peretz is the former chairman of the Histadrut
Histadrut
HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael , known as the Histadrut, is Israel's organization of trade unions. Established in December 1920 during the British Mandate for Palestine, it became one of the most powerful institutions of the State of Israel.-History:The Histadrut was founded in...

 trade union federation and defeated Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 in the primary election
Primary election
A primary election is an election in which party members or voters select candidates for a subsequent election. Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the next general election....

s for the Labour leadership on 9 November 2005. He led the Labour Party to a second place showing in the 2006 elections and became Defense Minister on 4 May 2006.
Quotations

The he:סיכול ממוקד|targeted assassination policy is a correct one. It is inconceivable that terrorists could operate freely without the ground quaking under their feet.

Source: TV interview by Menashe Raz, Oded Shachar and Maya Bengal, on Channel 1, October 16, 2005

At the first stages of negotiations, we will not release prisoners with blood on their hands. However, as part of a final agreement, I do not rule out this option. Offering hope for a better future is more important than grieving the past.

Source: TV interview by Menashe Raz, Oded Shachar and Maya Bengal, on Channel 1, October 16, 2005

Encyclopedia
Amir Peretz is an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i politician and member of the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 for the Labour Party. He is a former Defense Minister of Israel and former leader of the Labour Party, having left those positions in June 2007.

Peretz is the former chairman of the Histadrut
Histadrut
HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael , known as the Histadrut, is Israel's organization of trade unions. Established in December 1920 during the British Mandate for Palestine, it became one of the most powerful institutions of the State of Israel.-History:The Histadrut was founded in...

 trade union federation and defeated Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 in the primary election
Primary election
A primary election is an election in which party members or voters select candidates for a subsequent election. Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the next general election....

s for the Labour leadership on 9 November 2005. He led the Labour Party to a second place showing in the 2006 elections and became Defense Minister on 4 May 2006. He was defeated by Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak is an Israeli politician who served as Prime Minister from 1999 until 2001. He was leader of the Labor Party until January 2011 and holds the posts of Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government....

 for the Labour leadership on 12 June 2007 and resigned from the cabinet.

Early life

Peretz was born as Armand Peretz in the town of Boujad in Morocco
French Morocco
French Protectorate of Morocco was a French protectorate in Morocco, established by the Treaty of Fez. French Morocco did not include the north of the country, which was a Spanish protectorate...

. His father was head of the Jewish community in Boujad and owned a petrol station. The family emigrated to Israel
Aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

 when Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 won independence in 1956. They were settled in the development town
Development town
Development town is a term used to refer to the new settlements that were built in Israel during the 1950s in order to provide permanent housing to a large influx of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Holocaust survivors from Europe and new immigrants , who arrived to the newly established State...

 of Sderot
Sderot
Sderot is a western Negev city in the Southern District of Israel. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics , at the end of 2009 the city had a total population of 20,700. The city has been an ongoing target of Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip...

, where Peretz lived until the age of 18. He went to high school in a nearby kibbutz
Kibbutz
A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

.

He served in the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 as the brigade Ordnance
Israeli Ordnance Corps
The Israeli Ordnance Corps is a combat-support corps in the IDF GOC Army Headquarters. Before the Israeli Technological and Logistics Directorate was dismantled, it fell under its jurisdiction. The corps is responsible for the development and maintenance of war materiel, combat-support materials,...

 officer of the 202nd paratrooper
Paratrooper
Paratroopers are soldiers trained in parachuting and generally operate as part of an airborne force.Paratroopers are used for tactical advantage as they can be inserted into the battlefield from the air, thereby allowing them to be positioned in areas not accessible by land...

s brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 and reached the rank of captain. On 22 April 1974, Peretz was badly wounded as a result of an accident at the Mitla Pass
Mitla Pass
The Mitla Pass is a 32 km-long snaky pass in the Sinai of Egypt, wedged between mountain ranges to the north and south, located about 50 km east of Suez...

. He spent a year in the hospital recuperating. After leaving the hospital, he bought a farm in the village of Nir Akiva
Nir Akiva
Nir Akiva is a moshav in southern Israel. Located in the north-western Negev near Netivot and Nir Moshe and covering 1,000 dunams, it falls under the jurisdiction of Merhavim Regional Council. In 2006 it had a population of 273....

. Still in a wheelchair
Wheelchair
A wheelchair is a chair with wheels, designed to be a replacement for walking. The device comes in variations where it is propelled by motors or by the seated occupant turning the rear wheels by hand. Often there are handles behind the seat for someone else to do the pushing...

, 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
Sderot
Sderot is a western Negev city in the Southern District of Israel. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics , at the end of 2009 the city had a total population of 20,700. The city has been an ongoing target of Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip...

, as candidate of the Israel Labour Party. At only 31 years of age he won a victory which ended a long period of dominance of the town's politics by the right-wing Likud
Likud
Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

 party and the National Religious Party
National Religious Party
The National Religious Party ) was a political party in Israel representing the religious Zionist movement. Formed in 1956, at the time of its dissolution in 2008, it was the second oldest surviving party in the country after Agudat Yisrael, and was part of every government coalition until 1992...

. 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
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

. In 1994, after failing in a previous bid for Histadrut
Histadrut
HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael , known as the Histadrut, is Israel's organization of trade unions. Established in December 1920 during the British Mandate for Palestine, it became one of the most powerful institutions of the State of Israel.-History:The Histadrut was founded in...

 leadership, Peretz joined forces with Haim Ramon
Haim Ramon
Haim Ramon is an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset between 1983 and 2009, and as both Vice Prime Minister and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office with responsibility for state policy.-Biography:...

 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
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

. 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
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 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. The party won two seats in the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 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
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

, 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
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 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
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

, and reasserting Labour's traditional socialist economic policies. Peretz narrowly defeated Peres, the incumbent leader, in the election on 9 November 2005.

Views

During his campaign Peretz declared that "within two years of taking office I will have eradicated child poverty in Israel". 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 Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

ian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva , known popularly as Lula, served as the 35th President of Brazil from 2003 to 2010.A founding member of the Workers' Party , he ran for President three times unsuccessfully, first in the 1989 election. Lula achieved victory in the 2002 election, and was inaugurated as...

.

In matters concerning relations with the Palestinians and the Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 world, Peretz was seen as holding dovish positions. He was one of the early leaders of the Peace Now movement. 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
Yossi Beilin
Dr. Yosef "Yossi" Beilin is a left-wing Israeli politician and a former Knesset member, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister and Justice Minister, representing both the Labor Party and Meretz-Yachad, of which he served as chairman between 2003 and 2006. He is best known for his involvement with the...

, 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
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 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.

Peretz has also backed direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

.

Results

Peretz won 42% of the votes as against 40% for Peres and 17% for former defence minister and former party leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Binyamin Fuad Ben-Eliezer , , born 12 February 1936) is an Israeli politician and former military officer of Iraqi origin. He currently serves as a member of the Knesset for the Labor Party, and has held several ministerial posts, including Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour, Minister of...

. 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 28 March 2006. Shortly thereafter, Sharon and much of his Cabinet left Likud to form a new party, Kadima
Kadima
Kadima is a centrist and liberal political party in Israel. It was established on 24 November 2005 by moderates from Likud largely to support the issue of Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and was soon joined by like-minded Labor politicians...

.

Decline

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 prestige 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
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak is an Israeli politician who served as Prime Minister from 1999 until 2001. He was leader of the Labor Party until January 2011 and holds the posts of Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government....

 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
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

. 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 12 July, the second Lebanon war broke between Israel and Lebanon, following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah from Israel's northern border. Peretz, together with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

, have decided to respond aggressively and launched a campaign against the Lebanese militia of Hezbollah. For 33 days the attacks were carried out via air and land on military and civilian targets. 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, over 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 in June 2007.

Appointing the first Arab Muslim Minister in the Israeli Government

During his period as the leader of the Labor Party, Peretz nominated an Arab Muslim Israeli
Arab citizens of Israel
Arab citizens of Israel refers to citizens of Israel who are not Jewish, and whose cultural and linguistic heritage or ethnic identity is Arab....

, Raleb Majadele
Raleb Majadele
Ghaleb Majadele is an Israeli Arab politician. A member of the Knesset for the Labor Party, he became the country's first Muslim minister when appointed Minister without Portfolio on 28 January 2007.-Biography:...

, to be Minister of Culture, Science and Sports. His nomination was a breakthrough in the fragile relationship between the Arab-Israeli population and the Israeli government. This nomination was criticized by the right-wing party of Yisrael Beiteinu headed by Avigdor Lieberman.

Subsequent career

Peretz remained in the Knesset after losing his leadership role in the Labor Party and was re-elected in 2009. He opposed Ehud Barak's decision to enter a coalition government headed by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

.

External links

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