eitan cabel 298.88.
(photo credit: Knesset [file])
The Labor Party ended a decade-long, failed attempt to reach out to the underclass when it closed its headquarters in Tel Aviv's downtrodden Hatikva neighborhood last week and moved onto the campus of Beit Berl Teachers College in Kfar Saba.
The party had left its historic headquarters near the beach on Tel Aviv's Rehov Hayarkon 10 years ago, when Labor chairman Ehud Barak reshaped the party into the short-lived One Israel bloc that included former foreign minister David Levy's social affairs party, Gesher.
When Labor left Hayarkon, it made big news, and the party's politicians, activists and staff acted emotional for the cameras. By contrast, Labor officials left the Hatikva building for the last time without holding any ceremony or even issuing a press release.
"When we left the historic headquarters, it was like leaving home," veteran Labor staff member Daniel Azulay said. "The activists cried then but not now."
The only symbolism party activists talked about regarding the move out of the rented headquarters in Hatikva was how Labor had hoped to reach out to the poor by moving in, but instead the party merely joined their neighbors in poverty.
When Labor moved in, it was thriving, with 26 Knesset seats and control of the Prime Minister's Office. It is now the Knesset's fourth-largest party with 12 seats and has a debt of NIS 80 million.
"The situation used to be much worse," former Labor secretary-general Eitan Cabel said. "I got the debt down from more than 100 million to many suppliers to only 80 million that we owe just to banks."
Asked if he would miss the party headquarters he headed for years, Cabel said: "I'm not a sentimental guy. I don't look back."
Due to the debt, Labor's interim director-general, former MK Weizmann Shiri, had to cut some 20 staff positions, leaving the party with only four paid employees.
Azulay, who once headed Labor's union, said that arrangements were reached with all the workers and all of them left on good terms.
"No one was thrown out the window," Azulay said. "Everything was done with respect and understanding."
Unlike the two Tel Aviv headquarters, which had many rooms and offices, at Beit Berl Labor has 15 work stations, most of which will be manned by volunteers. Other party departments were outsourced or will be run out of the offices of party officials who have day jobs.
"We understand that what we had couldn't go on," Azulay said. "We are not sad but we are not happy either. We can only hope the party will get back on its feet."
One group of people who were not sorry to see Labor go were the party's neighbors in Hatikva, who remain Likud supporters.
As Labor officials moved out their last belongings, the head of the Hatikva Residents Committee, Shlomi Maslawi, was quoted as saying, "Good riddance to the traffic, the parking problems, and especially the party."
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