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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 03:00 GMT 04:00 UK
Israel's Labour leadership: The contenders
Palestinian officer sifting through the wreckage of a car hit by an Israeli missile
Ben-Eliezer is all for cracking down on the Palestinian uprising
Two men have emerged as the main candidates to win the contest for the leadership of Israel's opposition Labour party - Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Parliament Speaker Avraham Burg.

Mr Burg, an observant Jew, who until recently had been leading in the polls, is the more doveish of the two.

He was born in Jerusalem in 1955.

Avraham Burg
Burg: Former peace activist
Following his military service as an officer in the paratroops division he became one of the leaders in the protest movement against the war in Lebanon.

In 1983 he was wounded by a grenade that was thrown at members of the Peace Now movement as they held a demonstration in Jerusalem - Emil Grunzweig was killed by the same grenade.

In 1985 he was appointed by the then Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, to serve as his adviser on Diaspora affairs, a position that continued until he was elected to the Knesset in 1988.

Elected speaker

He was re-elected to the Knesset in 1992, having been placed third on the Labour Party list after the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

He resigned from the Knesset in 1995, but returned in July 1999, when he was elected Speaker.

Mr Burg lives in the mixed religious-secular community of Nataf, near Jerusalem with his wife and six children.

One of Labour's younger generation of politicians he is thought to favour pulling out of the government and trying to rebuild Labour as a real alternative to Ariel Sharon's right-wing Likud party.

Military man

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer is a former military man who talks tough about quelling the Palestinian uprising.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer
Ben-Eliezer is closely tied to Sharon's government
He was born in Iraq in 1936 and immigrated to Israel in 1949.

He served in the Israel Defence Forces as a career officer, serving as a commander during the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

During his time in the military he served as commanding officer in southern Lebanon as well as leading troops in the conflict with the Palestinians.

Maintaining status quo

In 1984 Mr Ben-Eliezer was elected to the Knesset, and in July 1999 he was appointed minister of communications and deputy prime minister.

In March 2001 he was appointed minister of defence, a post he still holds.

He is married and the father of five.

Of the two candidates Mr Ben-Eliezer he has more experience and observers say he is more likely to maintain the status quo within the government.

But his association with Mr Sharon's hardline government taints him in the eyes of some on the left.

See also:

03 Sep 01 | Middle East
Two die in Hebron clashes
21 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Israel's political turmoil
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