Flowers and fortune cookies flaunted by candidates in Labor race

“Today we are electing the best team for the next Knesset and the next government of Israel,” party Chairman Avi Gabbay said.

February 11, 2019 17:04
2 minute read.
Labor MK Stav Shaffir (C) with a group of supporters at a polling location for the party's primary

Labor MK Stav Shaffir (C) with a group of supporters at a polling location for the party's primary elections, February 11th, 2019. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Labor voters had difficult choices in their primary race on Monday.

Not only did they have to choose among 44 candidates running for a limited number of realistic slots for the April 9 election, they also had to decide whether they preferred the chocolate M&Ms from Revital Swid backers, the flowers distributed to those who said they would be voting for Shelly Yacimovich or the fortune cookies given out by supporters of Merav Michaeli, which predicted bills that she would pass.

At a polling station in Jerusalem, the supporters of the candidates each wore different colors. Stav Shaffir’s wore orange wigs and hats, the Michal Biran shirts were yellow, Swid adopted green, Yacimovich red, Eitan Cabel blue and both Michaeli and Yair "Yaya" Fink wore turquoise.

The star of the polling station was Fink’s mother, Irene, who is originally from Brooklyn and told all the voters with pride that she was the candidate’s mother. When Labor leader Avi Gabbay made a quick visit to the polling station, he took a selfie with Irene and sent it to her son.

Forecasts of rain were expected to keep turnout for the race low, but it rained less than had been forecasted. More than a third of Labor’s 60,000 members are senior citizens, and they have tended to vote disproportionately in the past.

There were long lines in some polling stations. Supporters of former Kibbutz Movement head Gavri Bar-Gil, who is running for a slot reserved for a kibbutznik, asked to extend polling stations hours.

Gabbay and his wife, Ayelet, voted at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds shortly after the polls opened.

“This is a holiday, a celebration of democracy in the Labor Party,” Gabbay said. “Today we are electing the best team for the next Knesset and the next government of Israel.”

Gabbay acknowledged the challenges Labor is facing earlier Monday morning in an interview with KAN News.

“There is no doubt we are in a situation that is not simple, but crises build us up,” Gabbay said. “At the end of the day, we will have the best and most experienced team that knows the Knesset best and can best fight for the people of Israel.”

Labor MK Itzik Shmuli said after voting at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds that he expected the primary to be a turning point for the party. He said that he expected to be placed high on the list.

Speaking after she voted at Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolow, MK Merav Michaeli urged eligible voters to “cast their ballots and enable us to replace the government.”

MK Stav Shaffir came with her boyfriend, Shauli Sheetrit, to vote at the same polling station as Michaeli, along with a group of supporters wearing orange wigs and holding orange balloons.

Jewish Agency chairman and former Labor head Isaac Herzog encouraged party members by text message to vote for two candidates: Gabbay’s rival Cabel and the head of the Reform Movement in Israel, Rabbi Gilad Kariv.

“It is more important than ever for the voice of the Diaspora to be heard in the Knesset, and Gilad Kariv can represent them best,” Herzog wrote.

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