(1952 - )
Amir Peretz is an Israeli politician who formerly served as Minister of Defense and was leader of the Labor Party. He is currently a minister in the Israeli Cabinet.
Peretz, 53, was born in
the town Boujad, Morocco,
where his father was the leader of the Jewish
community. His family made aliyah in 1956 and settled in the development town
of Sderot, which was primarily composed
of Sephardi immigrant families. In Sderot, Peretz was
a vegetable farmer and went to high school,
but never attended college. He was a captain
in the Israel
Defense Forces and, during the Yom
Kippur War in 1973, he was badly wounded
at Mitla Pass and spent nearly a year
in the hospital recovering.
Peretz's career as a politician
began in 1983 when he ran
for mayor of Sderot on the Labor
Party ticket. After being elected,
he made education and relations with neighboring kibbutzim his top priorities.
In 1994, Peretz joined forces
Ramon to defeat Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin's favored candidate
to lead the Histadrut. Peretz became Ramon's
deputy, but the challenge to party leader
Rabin left him isolated within the Labor
Party. In 1995, shortly after Rabin's
assassination, Peretz became the Histadrut
chairman. In 1999, he broke from Labor
and created his own party, Am
Echad (One People), which won a few seats in the Knesset in 1999 and 2003.
Am Echad merged back with Labor in 2004 after
many social programs were cut under the free
market policies of finance minister Benjamin
Peretz advocates restarting
and continuing negotiations with the Palestinians under
the context of the road
map plan. He says Israel has become morally
compromised by ruling over the Palestinians
and must be prepared to withdraw from much
of the West
Bank to save itself as
a Jewish state.
By solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
Peretz believes that many social maladies
in Israeli society, such as poverty and
the social inequality between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews,
will also be resolved. He believes
that the West Bank settlements are diverting important funds that could
be used to battle poverty. Regarding the
hot-button issues of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees,
Peretz said through his spokesman, “I
support a strong and united Jerusalem as
Israel's capital for eternity. I oppose with
an absolute opposition the right
of return within the State of Israel.”
Following a dispute with then Labor Party leader Ehud
Barak, Peretz established the Am Ehad ("One Nation")
party in preparation for elections for the 15th Knesset
in 1999. In 2004, Am Ehad was reunified with
Labor, and in November 2005 Peretz was elected
Chairman of the Labor Party.
In May 2006, Peretz was appointed Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of Defense. Following the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006 and heavy criticism for his actions during the war, Peretz retired the portfolio in June 2007.
Peretz lost leadership of the Labor Party to Ehud Barak in 2007 but remained in the Knesset until 2012. In December 2012, he left the Labor Party to join Tzipi Livni's new Ha'Tnuah Party and was elected to the Knesset on that party list in 2013.
Peretz is married to Ahlama
and has four children.
Dan Baron, “Peretz's rising star: Sephardi
farmer turns powerbroker,” Washington
(November 17, 2005); IMRA;
Photo courtesy of The