Ballot boxes for Zionist Union primary elections .
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Polls opened across the country today in the highly anticipated Labor party primary election.
Polling stations opened at 11 a.m. and are set to close at 9 p.m. Because the vote is computerized, results are expected by 10 p.m. If no candidate wins 40% of the vote, a runoff will be held Monday.
The Labor Party could elect a new leader for the 10th time since the 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, when its 52,000 members go to the polls.
Since the assassination, Labor has been led by Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Amram Mitzna, Peres again, Amir Peretz, Barak again, Shelly Yacimovich and Isaac Herzog.
If Herzog gets reelected, he would also make history, becoming the first Labor leader to be reelected since the 1980s, before Labor adopted the primary system.
The only woman running in the primary, socioeconomic activist Dina Dayan, announced Monday she was dropping out of the contest and endorsing Herzog.
Dayan’s departure left the race with seven candidates: Herzog; MKs Amir Peretz, Erel Margalit and Omer Bar Lev; former environmental protection minister Avi Gabbay; and party activists Hod Karubi and Prof. Avner Ben-Zaken.
“Herzog understands that to really bring new people into the party, we need to build a bloc,” Dayan said at a joint press conference at the party’s Tel Aviv headquarters. “I represent proof that the party can reach out to new audiences.”
The opposition leader said he was proud to receive her support. He said Dayan provided Labor with a refreshing new message.
“Dina Dayan provides the necessary missing piece that the Zionist Union and the bloc we will form needed to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Herzog said. “There won’t be peace without social justice.”
Herzog called upon supporters of Margalit and Bar Lev to act responsibly and not waste their votes.
Bar Lev responded by saying that Herzog’s voters should “keep in mind the best interests of the state and not aid those who allowed the party to collapse when it was in their zigzagging and feeble hands.”
Margalit decided to remind voters of his efforts to aid the criminal probe in Netanyahu’s submarine scandal by placing in polling stations across the country cardboard models of Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in a submarine, urging voters not to vote for Margalit.
“Anyone but Erel, because we want to continue to raise hell,” the Netanyahus say in the ads, which also rhyme in Hebrew.
Gabbay vowed Monday that if he wins the race, he could lead Labor to 30 seats in the next general election. He said the only way there will be big headlines on Wednesday morning about the race is if he wins.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, who brought her Hatnua party into a bond with Labor ahead of the last election, appeared to endorse Herzog without mentioning him by name in Monday’s weekly faction meeting. She used the same terminology as Herzog about the need for a large bloc to beat Netanyahu.
“We formed the Zionist Union and created hope,” she said. “This hope must be returned and grown in order to form a large bloc whose leader will be chosen in new primaries.”