(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Labor party elected its first female leader since Golda Meir on Wednesday when MK
Shelly Yacimovich bested her former mentor, MK Amir Peretz, in a run-off
race for the party's chairmanship.
Yacimovich was expected to give a victory speech at the party's
headquarters at Beit Berl Teachers' College in Kfar Saba, in which she
would call upon Peretz to remain in the party and lead it together with
Labor primary votes being tallied as polls close
Deciding between Shelly and Amir
She explained that a number of party members had called to congratulate her, including Peretz, MK Isaac
Herzog and Amram Mitzna.
won," she told supporters at Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv on hearing news of the victory. "I promise that we
will work together to bring about change. This is just the beginning of a new start for
Yacimovich won handily by nine percentage points over Peretz. Although
not all the votes were tallied, not enough ballots remained for Peretz
to make up the differences.
Yacimovich's victory came after
a contentious election which saw the candidates launching personal
attacks and claims of impropriety against one another.
Wednesday, election observers representing Peretz refused to remain at
four polling stations while votes were counted, but Labor's election
committee did not disqualify the votes there.
Late Wednesday morning, a Peretz supporter named Dov Shemesh was
punched by a Yacimovich supporter outside her headquarters and had to be
hospitalized. Yacimovich was present and video of the incident
indicates that she must have seen it, but she said she was unaware of
what happened, because she was giving interviews. Yacimovich called
Shemesh and condemned the incident, but when she said she didn't see it,
he called her a liar.
Peretz said Shemesh "had no connection to violence," and was "truly
the salt of the earth." He called on all Labor Party members to prevent
further violence. "The day after the election," he said, "we'll need to
unify against the Likud."
Yacimovich filed complaints with the Labor elections committee
against a Peretz organizer who she said set up a table inside a Haifa
polling station, and against Peretz's sister and brother-in-law, Flora
and Sammy Shoshan, for allegedly threatening voters at a polling station
in Mitzpe Ramon, where Flora Shoshan is mayor.
Earlier, Yacimovich complained that polls at several Kibbutzim and
large cities were prevented from opening on time Wednesday morning due
to the delayed arrival of Peretz's election observers. She noted that
Peretz's observers only came late to polling stations in sectors where
she had an advantage.
Neutral observers urged Peretz and Yacimovich to do everything
possible to keep the party united following the primary. MK Isaac
Herzog, who finished a strong third in the first round of voting last
Monday said he was concerned that Labor could split again as it did when
Defense Minister Ehud Barak and four allies left the party on January
"The party is not the personal property of anyone," said former
Labor candidate Erel Margalit, who like Herzog did not endorse anyone in
the run-off race. "We all must unite behind our leader. From today,
there are no adversaries in this house."