New Labor secretary-general aims to reach out to new sectors

Party is ‘the right place for former generals, but also socioeconomic activists and academics’

By
February 1, 2017 19:25
3 minute read.
Israeli Knesset

Israeli Knesset. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

While it is still unclear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in the next Knesset due to the criminal investigations examining his actions, it is almost certain that new Labor Secretary- General Eran Hermoni will be an MK.

Hermoni, 36, won his post on Sunday in a runoff race against MK Shelly Yacimovich’s former political adviser, Yaya Fink, after six candidates ran in the first round of voting two weeks earlier.

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He will automatically receive the safe seventh slot on the Labor candidates list for the next Knesset.

But between now and then, his mission will be to conduct the party’s next leadership race, which will be held between May and July, and start preparing Labor for the next general election. To that end, he intends to reach out to new sectors.

“Labor is the right place for former generals, but there are also socioeconomic activists and academics,” he said. “We should be the home of Israeli society, with representatives from all sectors, including Arabs, haredim, Russian speakers, Ethiopians, Beduin, Druse, young people, and religious Zionists.”

While Hermoni is secular, his wife, Tadela, is religious and an immigrant from Ethiopia. He produced flyers on the Torah portion of the week that were distributed in synagogues In his previous post as director of the Ideological Center of the Berl Katznelson Foundation, the educational- ideological arm of Labor.

Despite Hermoni’s emphasis on wooing more than generals, it would be seen as a big success if he caught one of the biggest fish available: former IDF chiefs of staff Gabi Ashkenazi or Benny Gantz. He intends to meet with them and push them to join Labor.

“I want all those who can advance the party and strengthen it for the next election,” he said.

“I call upon those opposed to the current government and who are worried about the country’s future to take responsibility and enter the political playing field. Labor is where they should be.”

Hermoni admits that Yesh Atid is doing far better than Labor in the polls, but he believes parties that bill themselves as centrist lack staying power and cannot provide a true alternative to the Right.

“[Yesh Atid chairman] Lapid can wear a different costume every time but in the end, his party has no future, and because he can’t form a coalition, he prevents [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu from being replaced,” Hermoni said.

“The biggest gift to Netanyahu is the success of Lapid. Unlike him, all the Labor leadership candidates can form a government.”

Hermoni will be meeting in upcoming days with leadership candidates Isaac Herzog and Amir Peretz, who both supported him in the secretary-general race, as well as MKs Yacimovich and Erel Margalit. He will help set a date for the leadership race and a membership drive ahead of it.

Then, the focus will shift to fighting Netanyahu, whom he has been protesting against since he was a 14-year-old youth activist in Givat Shmuel.

He headed the Labor Youth organization and its young guard. In recent years he has headed the Labor branch in Modi’in, where he lives today.

“Netanyahu is the politics of the past,” he said.

“He is a big failure, and he is disconnected from the crises ordinary Israelis are enduring.”

Through his new post, Hermoni has a connection to another prime minister. The Labor secretary- general post was once held by the nation’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

“With all due respect, I cannot compare myself to him,” Hermoni said. “It’s a big honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence. It’s the kind of thing that can’t help but make me emotional.”


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