PERETZ, AMIR (1952– ), Israeli politician, chairman of the New Histadrut and the Israel Labor Party, member of the Knesset since the Twelfth Knesset. Peretz was born in Bozar in Morocco, and immigrated with his family to Israel in 1956. The family settled in the development town of *Sederot that was established in 1955. His parents both worked for kibbutz-owned industries. He was educated at Beit Ḥinukh in Sha'ar ha-Negev, and at the high school in Sederot. Peretz had hoped for a career in the idf, but after he crushed his leg in training, and a prolonged rehabilitation period, was forced to leave active military service with the rank of captain. After leaving the idf Peretz joined the *Israel Labor Party, and unlike most of the young local leaders of Oriental origin (such as Moshe *Katzav of Kiryat Malakhi, David Magen of Kiryat Gat, and Meir *Sheetrit of Yavneh), was also an active member of the Israeli peace movement.
Peretz was elected head of the local council of Sederot in 1983. As head of the local council he acted to extract industries to his town, to change the nature of the relationship between Sederot and the neighboring kibbutzim, and to build a new community center. He resigned his position after being elected to the Twelfth Knesset on the Labor Alignment list, because the Labor Party advocated that Knesset members should not serve simultaneously in other public positions, except secretary general of the Histadrut. After entering the Knesset Peretz soon joined a group of young Laborites that included Haim *Ramon, Yossi *Beilin, and Avraham *Burg, who represented themselves as the future leadership of the Israel Labor Party. He was at first a member of the prestigious Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, but after the Labor Party went into opposition in March 1990, handed his seat over to a more senior member, while joining the State Control Committee and Labor and Welfare Committee. In the Thirteenth Knesset he was chairman of the Labor and Welfare Committee. In 1994 he ran in primaries in the Labor Party as candidate for secretary general of the Histadrut – a position he had always dreamed of holding – in order to introduce major reforms to save the ailing trade union federation from disintegration, but lost to Haim Haberfeld. When Ramon decided to run on an independent list against Haberfeld, Peretz joined him, and when at the end of 1995, after the assassination of Yitzhak *Rabin, Ramon returned to serve in the government under Shimon *Peres, Peretz became acting chairman of the New Histadrut, a position he continued to hold until elected chairman of the party in 2005. Prior to the elections to the Fifteenth Knesset, in March 1999, being disappointed with the leadership of Ehud *Barak, Peretz and two additional members of the Labor parliamentary group broke away to form a new party called Am Eḥad, that claimed to represent the workers and old age pensioners. Am Eḥad, headed by Peretz, gained two seats in the Fifteenth Knesset and three in the Sixteenth. Am Eḥad joined the government formed by Ariel *Sharon in March 2001, but left it in March 2002. In the beginning of 2005 Peretz and another member of Am Eḥad rejoined the Labor Party. In the meantime, as chairman of the New Histadrut Peretz declared numerous general strikes over the issues of the erosion of welfare benefits and wages and the government's policy of privatization.
Peretz defeated Shimon Peres in the 2005 elections for the Labor Party chairmanship, following which he resigned as Histadrut chairman. In the 2006 general elections the Labor Party received 19 seats and Peretz became minister of defense in the government formed by Ehud *Olmert of Kadimah.
[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]