Labor candidates: Race will crown new socioeconomic leader

Peretz persuades protester not to commit suicide, says next election to be decide on issue of helping Israeli, not Palestinian, refugees in tents.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
August 1, 2011 02:50
2 minute read.
Amir Peretz

311_ amir peretz. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))

Labor leadership candidate Amir Peretz successfully persuaded an impoverished woman from jumping to her death from a public housing development in Holon during a protest on Sunday.

The woman went to the roof of the Jesse Cohen housing complex and threatened for more than an hour to jump before Peretz, who was in town for the protest, talked her down to safety.

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The incident was seen by supporters of all the candidates in the Sept. 12 primary as a metaphor for what they hope the race could achieve: The crowning of a new socioeconomic leader for the country who could play a positive role in helping the increasingly angry masses.

There is no doubt that the next general election will be decided not on the issue of helping the Palestinian refugees but on the issue of helping Israeli refugees in the tents, Peretz told reporters outside the party’s executive committee meeting Sunday in Kfar Saba.

“Labor has the advantage, especially those who were not part of the coalition,” he said. “I didn’t agree to vote with this government for a single vote.”

Peretz was referring to fellow candidates Isaac Herzog, who was welfare and social services minister, and Shelly Yacimovich, who did not join the rebellion against the government that Peretz led.

Each of the candidates has visited protest tents and met with striking doctors. Herzog said that what both disputes had in common was that ordinary people felt “like suckers,” because the government had taken advantage of them.

“This will have an impact on the next general election,” Herzog said outside the Labor meeting. “Labor is the only party that has the issues promoted by the tents as part of its DNA. A quarter of the population hasn’t decided who to back in the next election. I can reach these people, who are not part of the classical left camp. This can make Labor the most influential party in the country within two years and change the political map.”

Yacimovich left the meeting without speaking to the press for a Channel 2 interview in which she declared that she offered “an authentic social-democratic agenda, which should be at the top of the country’s priorities.”

Candidate Amram Mitzna suggested taking funds away from haredim and settlers and giving the funding to “those in the middle class who bear the burden in our society.”

Millionaire financier Erel Margalit, who is also running, put his slogan on a fancy van and was driven from protest tent to protest tent on Sunday.

“I called for a revolution from the beginning of the campaign,” Margalit said outside the Labor meeting. “We need a New Deal between the people and the government that looks at the young people and sees them not as a place to give charity but as the key to the strength of the future. For Labor to be relevant to the people of Israel, it must connect to the street with new faces.”

The five candidates signed a document in which they vowed to respect one another and run a fair campaign. They also promised to stand behind whoever was elected, accept the will of the voters, and remain active members of Labor.


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