Some in Israel say the Middle East is inherently unstable.
and go. The international community allows dictatorships to slaughter their
people. And even what seemed to be the most promising couple, Yehuda Levi and
Ninet Tayeb, cannot stay together.
But others here say the Middle East is
more stable than credited.
The Assad family has been in control of Syria
for more than 40 years.
Ayatollahs have ruled Iran for nearly 35 years.
And the Labor Party has leadership primaries again.
At least in Labor,
the more things change, the more they stay the same. Since Ehud Barak quit
politics for the first time following his defeat in the 2001 prime ministerial
election, Labor has replaced its leader seven times.
This week, MK Isaac
Herzog announced he will challenge incumbent Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich in a
primary that will be held November 21. Yacimovich told The Jerusalem Post that
this might not even be the last Labor leadership race before the next Knesset
election, which is set for November 2017.
When the Post asked Herzog if
his run was not adding to Labor’s reputation as a cannibalist party that
repeatedly eats its own head, he was unapologetic. He described his candidacy as
a matter of justice.
“The party constitution that called for elections
within 14 months of losing a general election was changed, so the race could
have been held 36 months after the Knesset race,” he said. “She decided
unilaterally to ask for elections immediately after the holidays and municipal
elections. Once she did, I decided we had to present an
“It’s not a one-person party where only the leader
counts. The party is about its agenda.”
The last Labor race took
place in September 2011, when Yacimovich bested her arch rival Amir Peretz,
Herzog and Amram Mitzna. The bad blood between Yacimovich and Peretz and the
nature of a race with four candidates made it especially brutal.
contrast, there is no bad blood between Yacimovich and Herzog, who speak
regularly and respect each other. There are only two cand i d a t e s because
Herzog persuaded MKs Eitan Cabel and Erel Margalit to sit the race out, but
Herzog credits Yacimovich for enabling his partnership with the two
“She triggered the process by calling for a quick party convention
that we worked together on,” he said.
“We saw we can work together and
that we have a common agenda which appeals to the nearly half the party that is
looking for someone else to run it.”
Herzog, Margalit and Cabel held
private meetings at Herzog’s home, in which they had emotional conversations
regarding what bothered them about how the party was being run. They decided not
to repeat a mistake made by Mitzna in the last election, in which he refused to
endorse any candidate in the second round of voting – and thereby enabled
“We agreed that the party lacked feelings of
friendship, cooperation and collegiality,” Herzog said. “All of us had polls
that showed I had the best chance to beat Shelly. They were gallant enough to
come without preconditions and unite behind me.”
But Yacimovich planned
in advance for the one-two-three punch the three MKs meted out.
persuaded other MKs in the party to back her and announce their endorsements
shortly after Herzog’s press conference.
Seven of the 12 Labor MKs who
intend to endorse candidates are already on Yacimovich’s side, compared to
Herzog’s three. The remaining undecided MKs, Itzik Shmuli and Merav Michaeli,
are being wooed aggressively by both sides.
Herzog is expected to receive
the backing of Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini, who is strong in the
party, as well as activists loyal to former Labor leader Binyamin Ben-Eliezer,
who will stay neutral in the race because he is running for
Yacimovich’s associates said that with all due respect to MKs,
the race will be decided by the some 60,000 party members eligible to vote in
the primary. The number is low, because she blocked an initiative by Herzog and
his allies to permit a membership drive.
“She has gotten very strong in
the party,” a source close to Yacimovich said. “In the last race, only a handful
of the 200 Labor branch and district heads supported her – and now most of them
do. We have a majority of the members. We just need to bring them to
Another advantage that Yacimovich has that she did not the last
time is the backing of the Arab and Druse sectors. Former MK Ghaleb Majadle, who
heads the Arab sector, endorsed her. Reports that she promised him a ministry in
return were denied.
Yacimovich’s associates predicted that the October 22
municipal elections would strengthen the party and give her a boost. The party
is running in more than 80 municipalities, and unlike in past local elections,
mostly under its own name.
“Two years ago everyone said the party was
dead,” Yacimovich’s chief of staff Yair “Yaya” Fink recalled.
institutions are alive and kicking, while [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is
afraid to convene his [Likud] party convention. And when he did, he did
not even attend. It takes time to rebuild the party, but we are on the way
For Fink, a key step in the party’s rehabilitation is restoring
To that end, he wants to fight what he says are two
destructive myths about the party: That it would join any coalition, and that
its leader cannot be re-elected.
“No one believed we would stay out of
Netanyahu’s government,” Fink said. “Labor has changed its path on that. Now we
will also change our culture of changing leaders every two years. We will let
our leader work.
“Just like by not entering the government, we changed
our DNA, when we elect a leader twice in a row our DNA will change on that, too
– and people will start thinking differently about us.”