Gabbay and Peretz.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Vanquished Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog became the kingmaker, as MK Amir Peretz and former environmental minister Avi Gabbay – the two candidates who received more votes than him in Tuesday’s Labor leadership race – sought his support in a runoff that will be held on Monday.
Both Gabbay and Peretz visited Herzog at his Tel Aviv home on Wednesday morning.
They also tried to win the support of MK Tzipi Livni, with whom Herzog formed the Zionist Union ahead of the 2015 general election.
Herzog told The Jerusalem Post following a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the capital’s King David Hotel that he did not know when he would decide between Peretz and Gabbay. The decision about whether to back one of them will not come until after he consults with his closest supporters on Friday in Tel Aviv.
“I had deep conversations with both candidates,” Herzog said. “I told them that what I care about is continuing to widen our ranks and build the Zionist Union and widen its ranks and that we hold an open primary to ensure we defeat [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. This will be the test for me.”
Asked how he intended to woo Herzog, Peretz said Herzog would realize that he could best stabilize the party and make it an alternative that can take power. He praised Herzog for running the party well and winning 24 Knesset seats for the Zionist Union in 2015.
“I want Herzog to remain part of the party,” Peretz said. “I want Herzog to remain part of our battle.”
Gabbay received an endorsement on Wednesday from former prime minister and Labor chairman Ehud Barak, who was thought to have backed Herzog in the first round.
“Amir Peretz belongs in the previous decade, while Avi Gabbay belongs in the next decade,” Barak said. “Gabbay caused a revolution in Labor, and he can cause a revolution in the country.”
Peretz received a boost on Wednesday when Histadrut labor federation chief Avi Nissenkorn and Zionist Union faction head Merav Michaeli endorsed him.
“Amir represents what Labor needs: A real socioeconomic leader who can connect the periphery to the center of the country,” Nissenkorn said at a press conference at Labor’s Tel Aviv headquarters.
“His diplomatic ideology is sane.
He has proven throughout his campaign that his values come first. He unites the people, and I believe he can unite the party and bring in new sectors to the party.”
Peretz thanked Nissenkorn and Michaeli for their support. He said he expects the next general election to be held next May and that Labor must start preparing.
Michaeli praised Peretz for his support for social equality and the Iron Dome missile defense system. At the press conference, Peretz announced support for making education for children free, from birth to college.
“Our victory yesterday was huge,” he said. “We are getting ready to complete the battle, win clearly, and become the party’s candidate for prime minister.
Netanyahu should start worrying.”
Gabbay posted a letter to his supporters on his Facebook page in which he vowed to continue positive campaigning. He said the first round of voting was proof that Labor members are seeking change in the party and in the national leadership.
“This is not just a battle for the Labor leadership but, rather, for the character of the State of Israel,” he wrote. “Now I know more than ever that together we can win both.”