Israel's foremost priority throughout its existence has been to protect its citizens. Labor has seen the state through its tragic wars from 1948 to the present. At the same time, we have made every effort to achieve peace when the opportunity presented itself.
Threats against Israel never fail to take new forms. The rise of Hamas - as well as the Iranian threat that endangers the stability of the entire region - is no exception.
But Israel today faces another ominous threat, on the home front. Just as the entire country is tormented when a citizen is killed in a terror attacks, so, too, we are tormented by the deterioration of the society on which we have built our hopes.
Our society is suffering. The Zionist dream of a Jewish democratic state with proud achievements in scholarship, technology and the arts - not just a haven and a shelter, but also a place of pride and homecoming for every Jew - is close to moribund.
Over 760,000 children - one out of every three - live in poverty. Nearly one in five families is poor. In education the gap between rich and poor is among the highest in the Western world. Some elderly people, instead of living out their years in the warm comfort of home, spend their evenings waiting for the market to close so they can search among the garbage bins for food.
The worst part of this situation is that our economy is growing by 5.2% per year. There is money - but most of it is going to the rich. Not only are the poor getting poorer, the middle class is too. Working people are being pushed toward the poverty line.
Israel's governments have always worked to provide for the country's security - but they have often neglected its soul. I believe that the country deserves both security on its borders and security for its people at home.
I WAS born in Morocco. I moved to Israel with my family at the age of four. I spent my childhood in a transit camp while my parents struggled to get by on very little.
Life was hard, and it got harder during my service in the paratroopers, when I was badly wounded in Sinai and nearly lost the use of my legs. Overcoming the odds became a way of life.
By age 30 I was running for mayor of Sderot - and winning. Later I became head of the Histadrut and committed the next 10 years to protecting workers. I've devoted my life to public service, representing workers and middle-class people, insisting on fair wages, safe working conditions and pensions.
Let the other candidates make their cases about what they might do to help Israeli society. Then look at what governments, today led by Likud and Kadima, have actually done:
â€¢ NIS 3.5 billion has been cut from our education system - the future of our children and the future of our Jewish state.
â€¢ 1.5 million people are poor.
â€¢ The minimum wage is so low that people can't live on it.
â€¢ Social gaps are huge and growing.
Then look at my record, and that of my party. I don't need to make promises. I simply need the opportunity to champion the causes I have been struggling for all along working from the Prime Minister's Office.
A word about security. Our Knesset list boasts five of the top security figures in the country, and Labor governments have, as noted, led Israel through most of its wars. But Labor is the only party that can offer Israelis a security that is also concerned with their domestic well-being. We'll worry as well about education, pensions, wages and clean government.
Give us a chance to restore hope to the land we all cherish.
The writer is the chairman of the Labor Party.
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