07/07/2004 By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent, and Ha’aretz Service Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres, declaring that the party must begin to prepare for elections in 2006, said Wednesday that Labor wants to see the Israeli right carry out the disengagement plan by itself. Spurred by a High Court decision that the next general elections will be held no later than November 2006, there were growing voices within the Labor Party on Wednesday in favor of speeding the process of electing a permanent party chairman to replace acting chairman Shimon Peres. Peres later told the Labor Knesset fthat he believed he should remain party chairman until the end of 2005.
Peres said that Labor has received no appeals from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over the possibility of a unity government, and that no such overture may be forthcoming. Any such initiatives would be openly brought to party officials for discussion, Peres said, but added that Labor’s involvement in the government while the disengagement plan is put into effect would be less than ideal. “From our standpoint, it would be preferable if the right went ahead by itself with the plan for evacuation and removing settlements,” he told Army Radio. “This is the best thing that could happen.” The High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that elections for the 17th Knesset will be held in November 2006, not November 2007. The case had its roots in an Army Radio report some four months ago, which revealed that an error in enacting an amendment to the Basic Law on The Government invalidated the clause stipulating that the term of the current Knesset should end in November 2007. As a result of the legislative error, the law stated that elections should be held in 2006. “If there is already a date for elections – and there is no longer any doubt – a chairman must be elected as soon as possible, in order to lead the building of the party and prepare it for the coming elections,” said Labor MK and former party chief Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. Ben-Eliezer said that he would “certainly” be a candidate in primaries for the position of chairman, a post whose occupant is the party’s candidate for prime minister. Ben-Eliezer indicated that Peres might run as well. In the wake of the High Court decision, Ben-Eliezer and senior Labor lawmakers Eitan Cabel and Matan Vilnai are stepping up pressure to speed primaries to elect a permanent chairman. The primaries are slated to take place at the end of 2005, but Ben-Eliezer said they should take place as early as the start of the year. Vilnai has said he would also compete for the top spot. Other potential candidates include former prime minister Ehud Barak and former cabinet minister Haim Ramon. The justices found on Tuesday that articles 8 and 9 of the Basic Law on the Knesset apply in this case, and thus the next elections should be held in 2006. Sharon has told his associates he plans to run for the position of prime minister again in the upcoming elections. If elected, this would be his third term.