(photo credit: )
Sheula Aviani likes the way Labor Chairman Amir Peretz moves his hands.
"He talks with his whole body," said the 67-year-old mother of three from Sderot. "He feels like a politician but he doesn't talk like the rest of them. There is something of the Sephardi spice there - something that makes me want to listen to him."
Even though Aviani said she has voted Likud for more than two decades this election Peretz has her vote - and that's just how the new Labor chairman wants it.
Over the next few weeks, Peretz will step up his campaign in the small towns in the North and South of Israel. Towns that have traditionally been a bastion of support for the Likud, they may now be swayed by the working-class, "man of the people" image that Peretz represents.
"Things may change in the next few months, but if I had to vote now, I'd vote Peretz," said Aviani. "Not Labor, but Peretz. I don't know about the party, but as a man I feel I can support him."
Whether Peretz will be able to sway voters like Aviani to choose him over their longstanding allegiance to the Likud remains to be seen. For many, the Labor party carries the stigma of the Ashkenazi elite, a party for left-wing intellectuals.
"Peretz is like them," said a Labor Party spokesman. "And they recognize and appreciate that." Last week, Peretz visited Sderot alongside Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, a contender for the Likud leadership race. Shalom spoke to the crowd first, halting often as hisses and shouts of "traitor" rose from the crowd. Shalom, they charged, had deserted them when they really needed him. Where was he when the missiles fell and destroyed their business, asked one of the town's councilmen.
Then Peretz entered the stage.
"As soon as Peretz walked out people started chanting, 'Peretz, Peretz he's the king," said Aviani. "He had this big smile on his face, and he looked, he walked like us."