Jerusalem Bitter over his ouster as Labor Party chief, Shimon Peres quit his political home of six decades Wednesday to campaign for Ariel Sharon's new party, saying the prime minister is the best choice to lead Israel to peace with the Palestinians.
Peres' defection was an important coup for Sharon in the scramble by the major parties to recruit high-profile supporters during a political realignment the past three weeks as the country prepares for parliamentary elections in March.
Many Israelis respect Peres, an 82-year-old former prime minister, as an elder statesman and peacemaker, but they remain wary of his dovish politics.
His resignation from Labor could contribute to the view that he is a political opportunist. Peres also brings with him a reputation as a perennial loser at the polls who led Labor to five electoral defeats and lost a race this month to lead the party into a sixth election.
Under a reported deal worked out with the prime minister, Peres will support Kadima, the centrist party Sharon formed last week after leaving the hard-line Likud, but he will not officially join the party and he will not run for a seat in parliament, where he has served since 1959.
In return, Sharon - if re-elected - will give Peres a senior post in his next government, possibly putting him in charge of peace talks with the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states.