Labor Party leadership candidates Shelly Yacimovich and Isaac Herzog intensified their fight Tuesday, not over the votes of party members but over the contributions of campaign donors.

Herzog raised more money than the other four candidates in the last Labor race in September 2011. This time, Yacimovich came out of the gate running, obtaining dozens of relatively small donations from supporters, very few of whom are household names and all of whom live in Israel.

Each candidate is permitted to raise up to NIS 1.2m. ahead of the November 21 race. The maximum contribution is about NIS 44,000.

Herzog received a large donation of NIS 36,140 on Monday from Jay Ruderman, a Boston-born philanthropist who lives in Rehovot and runs a foundation that advances Israel-Diaspora relations and the rights of the disabled.

Ruderman said he was not a Labor Party member and and had contributed in the past to the campaigns of top politicians in Likud and Kadima. He said he met Herzog when he was welfare minister and worked with him on helping disabled people in Israel.

“I respect Herzog as a great leader, and I would like to see him succeed,” Ruderman said. “He has a lot to contribute to the state, and he would make a good prime minister. But for me it’s not about party politics, it’s about the individual. I am not a member of a party, and I don’t identify with a party. He appreciates the US-Israel relationship, and understands it better than most MKs. It’s important to help someone like him who has that perspective.”

A spokesman for Herzog’s campaign said most of his donations had not been received or reported yet. But in past elections, he received contributions from several international philanthropists, including Slim-Fast billionaire S.
Daniel Abraham, Birthright Israel founders Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, and South African-born businessman Mick Davis, who is chairman of the board of trustees of the Jewish Leadership Council of the United Kingdom, the umbrella body of the UK’s largest Jewish charities and institutions.

The only well-known figures among Yacimovich’s contributors are Ilan Shiloach, who chairs the Israeli branch of the international advertising firm McCann Erickson, and former accountant-general Yaron Zelekha.

Shiloach, who donated NIS 10,000 last month, is one of the main figures embroiled in the Harpaz Affair. Zelekha, who donated NIS 5,000 on July 15, sparred frequently in the past with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Yacimovich’s campaign said it would continue the same strategy that worked when she got elected two years ago: Relying on relatively small donations from ordinary citizens who care about the country’s future and want to advance Yacimovich’s ideals.

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