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Peres Decides to Step Down As Party Leader Next Summer

September 20, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres has announced that he will not seek the premiership in the next Israeli elections, scheduled for the year 2000.

The former prime minister’s announcement on Wednesday ended widespread speculation about his intentions in the wake of narrowly losing the May election to the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The time has come for a change,” Peres said on Israel Television.

But the 73-year-old opposition leader, also reiterated his determination to continue to “fight for peace.”

Peres’ announcement came a week after Ehud Barak, who served as foreign minster in the Peres government, declared his candidacy for the party’s leadership.

It also came on the same day that an internal Labor Party report on the recent election campaign was released.

The report by former Knesset Speaker Shevach Weiss placed most of the blame for Peres’ defeat with former Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who served as chairman of the Labor Party’s election campaign.

Weiss also pilloried former Police Minister Moshe Shahal, who served as head of the organization staff in the campaign, and Meir Nitzan, mayor of Rishon le- Zion, who was head of the election day staff.

Had the arrangements for election day itself been planned properly and executed effectively, Weiss wrote, Peres might well have been prime minister today.

Peres came in for less criticism from Weiss than had been anticipated — as did the two leading contenders for the Labor Party leadership: Barak and former Interior Minister Haim Ramon.

Barak served as head of Peres’ personal staff in the election campaign, while Ramon held the pivotal post of head of advertising.

Weiss faulted Peres for setting up competing and uncoordinated staffs, which failed to interact fruitfully.

Peres’ decision not to run again clears the way for what could be a heated contest for party leader in Labor’s internal elections in June.

In addition to Barak and Ramon, other possible candidates include former ministers Ephraim Sneh and Uzi Baram, and Shlomo Ben-Ami, a first term Knesset member who is a former ambassador to Spain.

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