Defense Minister Amir Peretz is inclined to support Ami Ayalon in the second round of the elections for the Labor Party leadership, sources close to the outgoing Labor chairman said Tuesday evening following a round of talks he held during the day with his associates.
The consultations, which continued also during the evening hours, are aimed at making a decision on which of the two remaining candidates Peretz should back, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak or Knesset Member Ami Ayalon.
Barak won the greatest number of votes in the first round of the elections Monday - 35.6 percent, Ayalon came second with 30.6 percent, Amir Peretz received 22.4 percent of the votes, Ophir Pines – 8 percent and Danny Yatom – 2.7 percent. Voter turnout stood at 65.2 percent.
Sources both in Peretz and Ayalon's headquarters denied the reports that the two had drafted an agreement. The defense minister is expected to hold a rally with his activists and supporters in which he will announce who he plans to support in the second round.
In the meetings, Peretz and his people are examining a number of parameters before making a decision. First of all, they are looking into the ability to influence and head the camp of the candidate Peretz will support.
Sources in Peretz's headquarters said that supporting Barak would make it very difficult for the outgoing Labor chairman to influence and initiate moves due to the fact that the former prime minister is already surrounded with a large number of MKs and minister he is obligated to.
Peretz's associates find it difficult to see a situation in which he would agree to be placed in a lower spot on the list than his rival, Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, one of Barak's main supporters.
Sources close to the defense minister have said, however, that if Barak distances Ben-Eliezer, Peretz would be able to reconsider cooperating with him.
Peretz: Everyone will follow us
Some of Peretz' advisors are categorically against him joining forces with Barak due to his personality. Former MK Hagai Meirom and Attorney Yossi Katz, for example, truly dislike him and are against any collaboration between the two whatsoever.
"Barak has many advisors, but Ayalon only works with Avishay Braverman," a source close to the defense minister told Ynet Tuesday. "It's easier to fit in where there are only two people leading."
Meanwhile, sources in Barak's headquarters said that he would do his best to join forces with Peretz, but should his attempts fail, his people would do their best to dismantle the defense minister's camp.
In response, Peretz told his activists during a rally in Rishon Lezion on Tuesday evening, "We are united, and together we will decide who we support. Our main demand will be changing the priorities. Everyone will follow us, because they know we are right.
"I have no intention in evening out any political score," added Peretz. "Everything will be done as part of our efforts to achieve our goals.
"We are facing important questions: Do we support the current government? Do we support political stability in Israel or should we push for early elections? We will deliberate and decide," the defense minister said.
"The only condition for reaching accomplishments is unity," he added. "Anyone trying to split us apart deserves only one answer: We will not break down."