Labor seeks defense figures to boost Knesset list

Polls show Labor nearly tripling in size after election; Yacimovich in talks with high-profile defense experts, social protest leaders.

October 6, 2012 18:47
2 minute read.
Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich

Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich is in talks with several well-known people in defense and other areas, in order to convince them to run for the next Knesset with the party, Labor officials close to Yacimovich said on Friday.

Yacimovich is looking for a top defense figure to bolster the party’s ranks ahead of the expected February election – but pickings are slim, as the mandated cooling-off period has not yet ended for many possible candidates.

Other than MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister and brigadier-general who is 76 years old, Labor does not have any MKs or announced candidates with serious security credentials.

Labor insiders, including Yacimovich’s chief of staff Ofer Cornfeld, himself a potential MK, said on Thursday that Yacimovich was in talks with several well-known people in defense and other areas, in order to convince them to run in the party primary. However, none would confirm or deny specific names.

Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter on Saturday night denied an Israel HaYom report that Yacimovich asked him to join Labor, and Yacimovich’s office would not comment.

Dichter, a former public security minister and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director, quit Kadima and the Knesset in August to became a minister.

If Yacimovich is looking for someone who served in a senior security position more recently, it is unclear whom she could pick, because legally, he would have to wait three years after he finished his tenure in that job.

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s and former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin’s cooling-off periods end in 2014.

Former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi cannot run for a political position until February 2013, and Brig.- Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, son of former president Chaim Herzog and brother of Labor MK Isaac Herzog, has to wait until August 2013. Former Military Intelligence chief Maj.- Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin’s cooling- off period ends in November 2013.

A Labor MK confirmed on Friday that Yacimovich was courting Stav Shafir, a leader of the 2011 social protests.

Yacimovich is also rumored to be trying to recruit National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuly, who was instrumental in leading the 2011 social protests, as well as Orly Vilnai and Guy Meroz, married morning show hosts, who focus on social issues.

Labor currently has eight seats in the Knesset, and is polling at 21-22. As such, it will have plenty of spots for newcomers to fill in its next primary.

The candidates slots for kibbutzim and moshavim are empty, as they were filled by Agriculture Minister Orit Noked and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, respectively, who left Labor when Defense Minister Ehud Barak formed the Independence Party.

However, Cornfeld pointed out, the committee that decides how the list for the next Knesset will be formed has yet to meet, and as such, all options are still open.

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