The Labor leadership race became more interesting on Monday when presumed candidates Eitan Cabel and Erel Margalit decided to sit out the primary and endorse MK Isaac Herzog, who will run against party and opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich on November 21.
Cabel and Margalit entered Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolow for a press conference in dramatic fashion only minutes after Herzog, and praised him as a team player who could return the former ruling party to power.
Histadrut Labor Federation chief Ofer Eini will also back Herzog, presenting Yacimovich with a formidable challenge.
Herzog condemned the current party leader for winning only 15 of 48 available Center-Left mandates in January’s general election “We decided to join forces because we understood that Labor needs new leadership.
Shelly will not return this party to power. Together with my colleagues, we will succeed,” Herzog said.
He added that he felt things would be no better in the next general election if Yacimovich continued to head the party.
“I believe that under me, Labor will get stronger and head a Center-Left alliance that can beat the Right,” he said.
Herzog denied accusations by Yacimovich associates that if elected he would lead Labor into Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. He said Israel had a terrible government that needed to be replaced, not joined.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post at the press conference whether he had the “elbows” necessary to succeed in a Labor primary – which historically has tended to be dirty – Herzog said those who knew how to cooperate had proven that they could accomplish more than tricksters and backstabbers. Referring to Cabel, Margalit and Eini, he added that his success in bringing together three egos proved he had elbows.
Margalit alluded to this issue by saying it was not every day that “people with ambition” can unite.
“Under Shelly, Labor distanced itself from those who saw the party as their home,” he said. “Labor lost its ability to present itself as an alternative and became anachronistic. Herzog knows how to unite and return our voters home.”
Cabel blasted Yacimovich for having nothing in common with the legacy of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Labor’s storied past. He said that under her leadership, the party spoke out only on socioeconomic issues and had a glass ceiling of 15 seats it could not cross.
Yacimovich issued a statement congratulating Herzog and calling him a “worthy” candidate. She vowed that the party’s primary would be a “clean and fair” vote.
“Internal democratic competition for the leadership of a party has indeed become a rare event in a political landscape full of singular leaders, but it is the lifeblood of modern democracy. We are proud of that,” she said.
Two other candidates joined the race by Monday night’s deadline: Labor activists Tomer Israeli and Alon Giladi.
MKs Nachman Shai, Miki Rosenthal and Moshe Mizrachi endorsed Yacimovich on Monday.