Histadrut Labor Federation chief Amir Peretz went to the Jerusalem Mall in Malha on Thursday morning, but the only thing he was shopping for was votes of Labor members ahead of the November 9 party primary.
An entourage of Labor supporters, including MKs Yuli Tamir and Ilana Cohen, followed Peretz around the mall as he shook hands, kissed babies and smiled for cameras. The visit was part of a national whistle-stop tour that also took Peretz to Tiberias and Acre on Thursday and will end on Friday with a visit to Tel Aviv's Carmel outdoor market.
As Peretz walked around the mall, fathers came up to him with their children and promised to vote for him. David Golenzer of Jerusalem approached Peretz with an outstretched hand and introduced himself and his three-year-old daughter Alona. "This is Amir Peretz, the next prime minister of Israel," Golenzer told Alona.
Golenzer said he was a former Labor member and that he would rejoin the party should Peretz be elected. He told Peretz that his vote was especially important because every candidate he has ever voted for has emerged victorious.
However, in a bad sign for Peretz, he finished fifth in a Shvakim Panorama poll of Labor voters broadcast on Israel Radio on Thursday, finishing behind incumbent Shimon Peres, ministers Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Matan Vilna'i, and "none of the above."
Peretz went to the mall's food court, where he made small-talk with falafel vendors and introduced himself to children who had never heard of him. He made election promises to a man named Avi Peretz (no relation), who came up to him and complained that the mall was staffed by young people paid minimum wage with no benefits.
The candidate's staff got excited when a former teacher named Moshe Peretz (again no relation) approached Peretz with a smile and told him that he would vote for him even though he is a Likud central committee member. Peretz invited Peretz to the fried chicken restaurant he owns in the food court, where he fed him French fries and hash browns.
"You're a man of the people, I respect you, and I will vote for you," Peretz told the candidate in front of the television cameras.
But after Amir Peretz left the mall, the restaurateur's wife admitted that her husband, who once ran for mayor of Ofakim, would never vote for any party other than the Likud and that he doesn't believe Peretz stands a chance in the primary against Peres.
She revealed that Peretz's political adviser, who attends law school with her son, called up the restaurant in advance and asked her husband to help Amir Peretz put on a show for the cameras.