Amir Peretz greets supporters311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Labor leadership candidates Shelly Yacimovich and Amir Peretz began their quest to win the September 21 run-off race on Tuesday with mutual recriminations and efforts to persuade strong third-place finisher Isaac Herzog to endorse them.
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Yacimovich defeated Peretz by only 587 votes in Monday’s first round of voting, 32.3 to 30.9 percent, while Herzog won 24.62% of the vote and former Labor chairman Amram Mitzna disappointed with only 11.9%.
Forty percent of the 44,067 acceptable ballots cast was needed to avoid the run-off race among the two top finishers.
Tuesday marked the beginning of an intense, nine-day race between Yacimovich and her former political patron Peretz that is expected to be marked by political and personal mudslinging. Peretz took the first volley, accusing Yacimovich of being an arrogant, snobbish credit thief who would help enable the re-election of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by taking votes away from Kadima, rather than Likud.
“The difference between me and Yacimovich is that Shelly is leading a campaign to take votes away from Livni, while I am leading a campaign to take votes away from Bibi,” Peretz said.
“Whoever votes for Shelly gets Bibi. It is no wonder the Prime Minister’s Office and Likud ministers were working on her behalf. If Shelly wins, Netanyahu will uncork champagne. Anyone who refuses to wave the peace flag cannot lead Labor.”
Peretz praised Herzog for obtaining more than 10,000 votes, despite Yacimovich’s strategy of telling voters that casting ballots for him was tantamount to wasting votes.
Peretz attacked Yacimovich for telling Herzog and Mitzna voters ahead of the second round that they were not “marionettes waiting for instructions from above.”
“What is this snobbishness and arrogance she is displaying when she knows about the strong-arming of the Histadrut that forced people to vote for her,” Peretz said. “There is a limit to this double game she is playing.”
Peretz said Yacimovich only made the second round instead of Herzog due to wildly inaccurate polls broadcast by Channel 2 that predicted that she would win 42% of the vote in the first round and Herzog only 16%. He said the polls created a false impression of reality that influenced voters.
Yacimovich said that she too did not believe the polls, but she also did not expect the race to be as close as it was. She vigorously denied Peretz’s charge of cooperation with the Likud, while refusing to respond to the rest of his attacks.
“I have deep reservations about Peretz’s verbal violence and his malicious lies, but I don’t intend to stoop to his diatribes,” Yacimovich said.
“I am sure that’s not what Labor voters want. Enough mutual recriminations that harm the party. I advise Peretz to focus on his achievements and not on mudslinging.”
Yacimovich said she hoped Herzog would agree to be her No. 2 in the party, despite their attacks on each other during the campaign.
“I respect Herzog very much, and we were good friends until a month ago,” she said. “I didn’t understand his negative campaign against me. But that one month doesn’t negate six years of working well together and shouldn’t prevent us from working together in the future.”
Both Yacimovich and Peretz are expected to meet individually with Herzog and Mitzna over the next two days in an effort to garner their support. Herzog said he would decide whom to support based on which candidate could prevent another split in the party.
Herzog blamed his loss on Mitzna, who refused his overtures to follow the lead of former candidate Erel Margalit by quitting the race and endorsing him.
“Had Mitzna joined me, I am sure I would be a bigger winner, but in a certain understanding of the word, I am the winner of the first round,” Herzog said. “All options are open.”
Both Herzog and Mitzna have left open the possibility of endorsing neither candidate.
They are expected to make a decision as early as Thursday.