The Labor central committee approved all of party leader Shelly Yacimovich’s changes to the list for the 19th Knesset on Tuesday night after a noisy battle with activists, paving the way for her preferred candidates to make it into the Knesset.
“I am running for prime minister, and yes, we can replace the government,” Yacimovich said at the meeting at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds.
Labor Constitution Committee chairman and former justice minister David Libai called for decorum several times during the meeting, which was punctuated by booing, opposition speeches and an activist being physically removed from the hall after attempting to storm the stage.
Yacimovich presented the reforms she sought to make, including changing the list’s format from one that includes saved spots to one of ensured representation. This means that if a candidate from Jerusalem, for example, is elected to one of the top spots on the list, the 31st slot will no longer be saved for a Jerusalem resident.
The change also means that all candidates will be elected via the regular primary list, and not in a special vote in each district or population celebrity candidates backed by Yacimovich to beat out veteran party activists.
In addition, in the new format, Arabs and Druse share the 18th and 26th spots on the list, while kibbutzim and moshavim are grouped together for slots 17 and 25.
As Yacimovich took the stage, the crowd lifted signs that were provided on each seat, reading “Replacing the regime,” and cheered, “Shelly, Shelly!” “This is the best, most democratic proposal. No more is the phenomenon in which a person can get in the Knesset with only 1,000 votes. Everyone elects everyone. Yes, it’s difficult, but it ensures a democratic process,” she said, to boos from the crowd.
Citing polls showing the party expanding to 23 seats in the 19th Knesset, Yacimovich said Labor would grow even larger and that there would be room for “veterans and newcomers, Center and periphery, Arabs and Jews” in the faction.
“There is only one large party that threatens [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, and it is Labor,” she declared, as the audience chanted, “Bibi, go home.”
She referred to former prime minister Ehud Olmert in her speech, saying the public would not vote for those moving from the accused’s bench to politics.
The Labor leader also included a dig at Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence Party, saying that under the new by-laws, people would no longer “steal [the party’s] Knesset seats and run away.”
“The public believes in us, because we are sharp and do not zigzag. We don’t live off of spins and slogans,” she added.
“We ensure mutual responsibility and solidarity, social justice and a fair economy.”
As the Labor chairwoman took the stand, Michal Gur, an activist from Jerusalem and primary candidate, attempted to storm the stage, knocking down a large screen. Gur was removed from the hall, but continued to bang loudly on the metal doors throughout Yacimovich’s speech.
According to a spokeswoman for Gur, the activist demanded 40-percent representation for women on the party’s list – twice as many as Yacimovich proposed.
Before the party leader spoke, Labor MK Ghaleb Majadle took the stage and said it was unfair for her to “change the rules of the game after it already started.” He added that by running in the national list, rather than in the reserved spot for an Arab candidate, he would have to be elected by people he did not represent.
Tel Aviv city councilman and Labor district secretary Shmulik Mizrahi called the changes an injustice that was disrespectful to former MKs.
Earlier Tuesday, Merav Michaeli, a Haaretz columnist known for her feminist opinions, announced after months of media speculation that she was joining the Labor race.
“All my life I am a feminist social activist while working as a journalist, and in both areas, I worked to fix injustices, bring equality and strengthen women and other weak population groups,” Michaeli wrote on her Facebook page. “Now I want to do that in politics.”
The columnist explained that she identified with Labor’s “ideological DNA over the years, including social justice and peace with our neighbors.”
She also said it was important to her that she was joining the party at a time when a woman was leading it.