Israel's Labour taps veteran to try to revive fortunes

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel's opposition Labour party has chosen veteran politician and trade unionist Amir Peretz as the leader to revive the party's fortunes after a humiliating showing in an April general election.

Labour, which dominated Israeli politics in the decades after the country's 1948 founding, won only six of the 120 seats in parliament in the April 9 vote.

Party members picked Peretz, 67, by 47 percent to 27 over his 34-year-old rival Stav Shaffir in a primary on Tuesday.

He will have a first test of his ability to win back disenchanted left-of-centre voters when Israel returns to the polls for another general election on September 17.

Parliament voted in May to call the new poll after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to turn his alliance of right-wing and religious parties into a majority coalition.

Peretz already served as Labour leader between 2005 and 2007 when he led the party into government as a junior partner to the centrist Kadima party of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

He served as deputy prime minister and as defence minister during Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon before being toppled as party leader by former prime minister Ehud Barak the following year.

A former head of Israel's Histadrut trade union confederation, Peretz has served as a lawmaker for most of the past three decades.

He replaces Avi Gabbay, 52, a former businessman and environment minister who stepped down as party leader last month to take responsibility for the defeat at the polls.

Gabbay had defeated Peretz for the leadership in a 2017 primary.