Barak pounds pavement, stays on message

Barak reiterates claim that only he can beat Netanyahu.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
May 29, 2007 00:58
2 minute read.
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Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak visited polling stations across the country on Monday, shaking hands, kissing babies and repeating the same mantra over and over again. "I tell voters just two things," Barak said repeatedly. "Number one, I am the only candidate who can beat Bibi [Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu] and number two, that they should think hard about who they want to see in charge of their security if there is another war." Barak relayed that message to voters and reporters on campaign stops in Kfar Saba and Ra'anana, Jerusalem, Netanya, Haifa and the kibbutz where he was raised, Mishmar Hasharon. Even though he now lives in the posh Akirov Tower in Tel Aviv, Barak voted in Kfar Saba, because he is still registered at his former address in Kohav Yair. At polling stations, Barak spoke to voters of all ages. On a visit to a polling station in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, Barak approached a nine-month-old baby girl and told her: "You should vote for me in 2025, when I'll be Shimon Peres's age." Barak's staff arrived ahead of every campaign stop to ensure that the activists there would be ready for his arrival with flyers and his campaign jingle. Neighborhood residents around polling stations in Kfar Saba and Jerusalem complained about the noise. Pro-Barak activists who put a couple of loudspeakers on the roof of a car that was plastered with placards proclaiming that Jerusalem was with Barak were upbraided by Lily Ben-Yehoshua who has been living next door to the polling station for more than half a century. She said she could not tolerate the blare of Barak's campaign commercial. But when she protested, former minister and Barak supporter Prof. Shimon Sheetrit told her: "That's democracy." Former MK Emanuel Zissman, who is also a former ambassador to Bulgaria, couldn't understand why she was angry and gave her a rude rebuff. When Barak eventually did arrive in a white car with a blue police light on the top, he emerged from the back seat to the sound of contrived applause, after which a very small group of people began yelling: "Ehud, Ehud Ehud, here comes the next prime minister of Israel." A young man who had come to vote walked by in a grey T-shirt with a bright orange slogan reading: "Life as usual." A few seconds later, Barak came out of the building and got into the car. The small crowded street was suddenly cleared of people and motor vehicles, and it was indeed life as usual, though Ben-Yehoshua said she was already dreading the future chaos in the event that there would be a run-off race in two weeks.

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