Labor race widens as Yossi Beilin eyes party’s helm

JERUSALEM — The race for head of the Labor Party widened this week, after Knesset member Yossi Beilin announced his candidacy.

The party is set to elect on June 3 a new leader who would run for the premiership in the next general election, set for the year 2000.

Beilin, an architect of the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, said Tuesday at a news conference that he decided to enter the race after former Prime Minister Shimon Peres announced last week that he would not seek another term as party leader.

"I do not presently see someone who is leading the Labor Party with the outlook of Peres, which is the correct synthesis of peace and security," said Beilin, who has been close to Peres for nearly two decades and served as a minister-without-portfolio in the previous Labor government.

Knesset member Ehud Barak, the leading candidate for party chairman, welcomed Beilin's entry into the race.

Barak, the ex-Israel Defense Force chief of staff who was foreign minister in the Peres government, and a relative hawk, said Labor must find a candidate who can defeat Likud.

The Labor Party's Central Committee backed a compromise last week between Barak and Peres that, if a national unity government is formed with the ruling Likud Party, Peres will be Labor's senior minister.

Peres at the time agreed to support any new Labor head.

The other announced candidate for the Labor leadership is Knesset member Efraim Sneh, a former health minister.