It's official: Peretz returns to Labor party

Former Labor leader signs membership papers to come back to original party, though it remains unclear if he will challenge Herzog.

Elad Benari ,

Peretz and Herzog shake hands as Peretz returns to Labor party
Peretz and Herzog shake hands as Peretz returns to Labor party
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Former Labor party leader and Defense Minister Amir Peretz officially rejoined Labor on Monday, three years after he left the party and joined Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua faction.

Peretz’s plan to return to the Labor party was first made public last September, and he confirmed the plan in November when he also hinted that he might challenge current Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog in the primaries for the party leadership.

According to Haaretz, Peretz's return was welcomed warmly by Labor leaders during a ceremony in the party's caucus room in the Knesset, where he formally signed his membership papers.

The old-new Labor member received a hug from Herzog, though the possibility that Peretz might challenge Herzog for the party leadership created a certain tension in the room, the newspaper said.

"When Amir said that he would do everything to establish a new government under my leadership after the elections, I am sure that Bibi understands he has something to be concerned about," Herzog said during the ceremony.

Peretz's associates were quick to clarify after the ceremony that he "has not promised not to compete against Herzog." Peretz, they added, "has come to assist the party but he is liable to weigh his options ahead of the next election."

Before the 2013 elections, Peretz dropped a bombshell and, at the last minute, quit Labor and joined Hatnua, due to his tense relations with then-party chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich.

As a member of Hatnua Peretz served as Environment Minister in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s previous government before resigning due to his claims that the government was “extreme right”.

Hatnua and Labor ran together in the last elections under the name Zionist Union, with spots on the Labor list reserved for Livni and Peretz, among others.

Peretz's return was welcomed by Knesset caucus chairperson Merav Michaeli and Yechimovich, who could reestablish her previous partnership with the man who was once her mentor, noted Haaretz.