(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Nothing illustrates the poor shape of the Labor Party better than Friday’s magazine section of Maariv Hashavua, The Jerusalem Post’s Hebrew sister newspaper.
The cover story was a doomsday interview with former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Ami Ayalon, who lost the 2007 election for Labor leader to Ehud Barak by a very small margin. Ayalon spoke as a security expert about the failures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the weekend after the publication of a State Comptroller’s Report that exposed Netanyahu’s vulnerability on a key issue.
That race pitted Barak, a former prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff of the IDF against Ayalon, a former commander of the navy, as well as the Shin Bet.
Inside was an interview with Avner Ben-Zaken, who is running for Labor Party leader now, in an election that was set on Sunday for July 3. In fact, it was an exclusive interview with the one and only Avner Ben-Zaken.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask: Avner who? It’s OK. You’re not the only one who hasn’t heard of him.
Avner Ben-Zaken is a historian of science who heads the program for outstanding students at Ono Academic College.
He was raised in Beersheba, has a doctorate from UCLA and was among the Harvard University Society of Fellows.
He will be among eight or nine candidates running to head a party that might not even win eight or nine seats in the next election.
The Zionist Union, which Labor is part of, is polling at an average of 10.4 in seven polls taken since December, good enough for only fifth place, according to the poll tracking website KnessetJeremy.com.
Three of the last six polls have it in the single digits.
An optimist would say the reason so many people are running is that there is nowhere for Labor to go but up. A cynic would say the fact that there are so many candidates to head the party and so few people left for them to lead is what is wrong with the party in the first place.
The surplus of ego was on full display in the revelation of a deal between former Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and potential candidate Eitan Cabel. In a profanity- laced conversation he did not know was taped, he said all he cared about was achieving his dream of heading Labor and that he could not care less about the Histadrut chairmanship, a post he ran for five years ago as a stepping stone.
Whoever does win the race will have tough work ahead to resurrect the party. He will have to massage egos in the party to make sure everyone gets along, and even consider putting himself second or third on someone else’s list in order to create the kind of mega-slate that could try to beat the Likud.
Until any of the potential Labor leaders proves himself modest enough and capable of doing that, they are all condemned to run to nowhere.