Labor leader Avi Gabbay addresses his constituents.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
No major party in Israel will be electing a new Knesset list after Labor decided on Sunday to cancel its primary and keep the same slate for the September 17 election.
The party will still hold a leadership race on July 2 to replace Avi Gabbay, in which MKs Amir Peretz, Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli are running.
The convention took place at Expo Tel Aviv amid reports that former prime minister Ehud Barak is trying to woo former Labor MKs and candidates to join a party he is considering forming. Barak has spoken to former MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin and to Yair Fink – who is No. 10 on the Labor list – among others.
Former deputy IDF chief of staff Yair Golan is partnering with Barak and turning to well-known figures on his behalf. Barak has also tried to woo veteran strategist Lior Chorev.
Gabbay lamented at the convention that people like Barak and Golan do not want to join Labor, and blamed it on the party’s bureaucracy.
The outgoing Labor leader was greeted by a mix of applause and hecklers who called upon him to quit the Knesset immediately and “go home.” Gabbay received praise from Peretz, who said that he would be remembered fondly in retrospect.
Gabbay was remembered less fondly in the speech of Shaffir and Shmuli, who said the state of the party after he led it to six seats in the April 9 election was dire.
“We are on the edge of a cliff and we will soon find out if we unite or fall off and die,” Shmuli said. “Out of these ruins, we must raise our heads and begin our work anew. It will take time, and we will need new adrenaline. We might have been given our last chance to save ourselves and restart with new life.”
Shmuli called on Shaffir to quit the race and endorse him after eight years of animosity between the two leaders of the 2011 socioeconomic protests, in which they barely exchanged words.
“We see the same [poll] numbers,” Shmuli said. “You know the situation. Let’s learn from the mistakes of the past.”
Shaffir rejected Shmuli’s call and vowed to stay in the race until the end. She said he spoke differently when they met recently, and she asked him to cooperate with her.
“It’s been years since our party planned anything of any significance except for the annual memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin,” Shaffir lamented in her speech to the crowd. “We have become a shell of a party. The time has come for us to stop looking for compliments from the Right and win.”
The crowd was divided between supporters of Peretz, who wore red caps and shirts bearing his trademark mustache and the slogan “Amir now”; backers of Shaffir, wearing orange shirts and wigs reminiscent of her hair color; and those in favor of Shmuli, who wore black shirts that said: “This is how I want Labor.”
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