Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich will initiate a leadership primary in the party at a Tel Aviv press conference on Sunday morning, her spokeswoman said on Saturday night.

Yacimovich has been mulling advancing the primary, which must be held by March according to Labor’s bylaws. Holding the race early would enable her to run when she is strong and when potential candidates who are not in the party yet like former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi are not ready.

“After holding consultations, I intend to immediately hold a party convention, which will set the date for the election for party leader,” Yacimovich said. “Labor is standing before important national goals. As the alternative ruling party, we must advance our goals when we are united and leave behind internal democratic contests.”

A Labor source said Yacimovich would want the primary to be held as soon as possible after the October 22 municipal election. Yacimovich’s spokeswoman said she could not comment ahead of the press conference.

The candidates who run against Yacimovich are expected to be MKs Isaac Herzog, Eitan Cabel and Erel Margalit. Former generals Ashkenazi and Amos Yadlin would surprise if they choose to enter the race.

Cabel said the main question that needed to be decided was not the date of the primary but whether Yacimovich would allow a membership drive to be held ahead of it. He accused her of fearing to hold a membership drive that could bring new blood into the party.

“She believes she is strong from the previous drive, but she is much weaker than she thinks,” Cabel said. “Back then, she had [Histadrut labor federation chief] Ofer Eini on her side. She had momentum then, but now she doesn’t. She is acting like a coward who is scared to open the ranks of the party. I am confident that whether or not there is a drive, I can beat her.”

Herzog said he also wanted time to bring new members into the party who would be interested in making a change.

“Starting the race is her decision,” Herzog said. “If that's what she wants, it’s fine with me, as long as the race will be fair and the municipal elections will not be affected.”

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