Mitzna: Only I can bring Labor double-digits

"Party on operating table," he says in virtual declaration of candidacy.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 4, 2011 10:25
3 minute read.
Yehoram

Amram Mitzna 311. (photo credit: Ron Friedman)

 
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Former Labor chairman Amram Mitzna officially kicked off his unconventional campaign for the Labor leadership on Wednesday by bypassing a traditional press conference, and speaking directly to current and potential Labor members online.

In a message on his website, Mitzna explained why he decided to leave the Knesset in 2005 to serve as mayor of Yeroham in the Negev – and why he decided to make an attempt to return to national politics by seeking the Labor chairmanship in September 12’s party primary.

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“I am returning to the Labor leadership because I believe that the party that built, established and escalated Israel to great achievements is still the true home of men of peace and Israeli labor and society. If you are like me and raising children here, you are also worried.

But out of this concern, hope and faith can, and must, blossom.

If you are here, you must believe like me that it is possible. I call upon anyone who wants a stronger, better and more determined Israel to join Labor and believe in a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.”

Mitzna admitted that he considered new parties being formed on the Left, and concluded that it was preferable to revive Labor than to attempt to build a new party from the bottom up.

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“I took seriously the question of whether I should return, and I realized that there is no room for new parties with narrow interests or niches,” Mitzna said. “Ehud Barak’s departure from Labor has given the party new life in the eyes of the public, and I am the only potential leader who can return the party to center stage and achieve double- digit mandates in the next election.

A Dahaf Institute poll published in last Thursday’s Yediot Aharonot found that Mitzna would bring Labor the most seats in the next election. The poll predicted that Mitzna would bring Labor 16 or 17 seats; MKs Shelly Yacimovich or Isaac Herzog, nine; MK Amir Peretz, six or seven; and venture capitalist Erel Margalit, two.

Union of Local Authorities head Shlomo Buhbut, who is also in the crowded field of candidates, was not included in the poll.

Mitzna predicted that multiple candidates would drop out ahead of the race. He said the fact that there are so many people who want to head “a party that is on the operating table in the emergency room” was a sign that it could be revived.

While Mitzna criticized some of his opponents – who he said were only using the race to advance themselves politically – he reserved his fiercest criticism for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he blamed for the current diplomatic stalemate.

“I can’t blame the Palestinians for seeking their goals and interests, and I can’t complain about Barack Obama, because I didn’t vote for him, and the American leadership has our interest at heart, even when it makes mistakes,” Mitzna said. “I can only impact decisions here in Israel. Our leadership’s inability to make difficult decisions, its lack of initiative and its being dragged behind, is terrible. The world doesn’t believe Netanyahu, even though he speaks such perfect English.”

Mitzna slammed Netanyahu for saying that the door to peace with the Palestinians was closed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to form a government with Hamas. He declined to say that Israel should speak to a Palestinian government built by Hamas, but said Israel needed to “take advantage of new opportunities that are arising.”

“We can’t go make peace with the Swiss,” Mitzna said.

“I will speak to any partner that wants to reach an agreement with Israel. Their reconciliation is their decision, and it will be tested by their actions. I maintain open channels with the PA. It’s a mistake to say the door is closed.”

Mitzna said he had learned from his mistakes, and he would use former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s comeback as a model.

But Herzog warned that Barak proved that comebacks could go badly, and Yacimovich said Mitzna’s experience leading Labor was “short, painful, and ended quickly.”

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