Watching the polls, Ben-Eliezer asks Mitzna to lead Labor

Party heavyweight said to have visited Mitzna last week; recent poll shows Mitzna enjoys widest public support of all Labor politicians.

Amram Mitzna 311 (photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Amram Mitzna 311
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
After trying unsuccessfully to woo Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini to run for Labor Party leader, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer asked former party chairman Amram Mitzna last week to seek the job again, sources close to Ben-Eliezer confirmed on Wednesday night.
Ben-Eliezer has said publicly that he wants Mitzna to join the party’s leadership. But he went further on a visit to Yeroham when he told Mitzna privately that he would like to see him at the top of Labor’s electoral list.
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“He is the only one who can save the party,” Ben-Eliezer reportedly said about Mitzna.
Ben-Eliezer made the offer after seeing polls that revealed the unpopularity in the general public of the three current candidates for Labor leader: Incumbent Ehud Barak and challengers Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman.
A New Wave poll broadcast on Wednesday night found that among the general public, 19 percent preferred Mitzna, 18% MK Shelly Yacimovich, 14% Barak, 12% Herzog and 8% Braverman. The rest declined to answer or had no opinion.
Among Labor voters, Barak received the most support at 25%, followed by Yacimovich with 24%, Mitzna at 16%, Braverman at 13%, and Herzog with 12%. Ben-Eliezer’s associates said he had noticed that Herzog and Braverman were at the bottom of both lists.
Mitzna led Labor from 2002- 2003 after defeating the incumbent Ben-Eliezer in a highly charged race in which Ben-Eliezer often referred to the left-leaning Mitzna as “Yossi Beilin with a beard.”
After he lost the 2003 general election to Ariel Sharon by a wide margin and declined joining a national-unity government, Mitzna was deposed from the Labor leadership.
Then-interior minister Ophir Paz-Pines appointed him acting mayor of Yeroham in 2005. His replacement was elected last month.
Barak’s associates said he had met with Mitzna several times over the past few months and urged him to return to national politics. But they said Barak intended to run for re-election as Labor leader and denied reports that he saw Mitzna as his eventual successor.
Opponents of Barak in Labor said it was too late to fix the party no matter who would lead it.
“We have switched leaders so many times and it has never worked, so it doesn’t matter who leads this crazy party anymore,” MK Eitan Cabel said. “I would tell Mitzna: You were already burned once in that job, and next time, the fire can hurt even more.”