Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich 370.
(photo credit: Artiom Degel)
The Labor Party will hold a race for leader of the party on November 21 after incumbent party head Shelly Yacimovich succeeded in passing her proposal for how and when to run the race at a Labor convention Friday by a vote of 576 to 533 at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
Yacimovich praised the results and expressed hope that the race will be clean and free of personal attacks. According to her proposal, Labor members will have had to have joined the party by May 21 in order to vote, and the last day to enter the race will be August 26.
MKs Isaac Herzog, Eitan Cabel, and Erel Margalit presented an alternative proposal to hold the race on January 21 and hold a special membership drive for three months. The three MKs released a statement after the vote saying that they intend to respect the results.
"It is a narrow victory for the head of the party in which nearly half the party said no to her and her path," Herzog, Cabel, and Margalit said.
In their convention speeches ahead of the vote, the three MKs took turns attacking Yacimovich and her leadership.
Margalit warned that under Yacimovich Labor had become "a party of losers." He said that voting for Yacimovich's proposal was tantamount to voting for Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, because if she stayed in power, Lapid could continue to take away Labor's potential voters.
Herzog pleaded with Labor central committee members at the convention to approve holding a membership drive that he said would enlarge the party and its influence.
"There are those who think we are a little fish in a big sea," Herzog said. "But we can have a membership drive that can make us big. The question we are deciding today is whether we want to be a small party closed in itself or a large party that is open to the public as a whole. Let's open our arms to people who have woken up and given up on the Facebook parties [Yesh Atid and Hatnua] and want to come to us."
Cabel mocked Yacimovich in a female voice for her performance leading Labor in January's general election. He compared her way of running the party to the autocratic way Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman leads his party.
"Shelly, stop being Liberman," Cabel said. "Socialism is not Bolshevism."
Yacimovich, who spoke last, made a point of not responding to any of the criticism. She said criticism was part of politics and that was why she wanted a quick primary that could enable the party to start preparing or the next general election.
"My proposal will minimize the blood shed in this race," she said. "None of us should want primaries that last seven months. It is not right. It is not healthy. Cabel, Herzog, and Margalit will be given a chance in open primaries to prove their leadership and to prove they can bring Labor more support than me."
Since 2000, Labor has replaced its leader six times. If Yacimovich emerges victorious, she will be the first Labor head to win back-to-back leadership races since President Shimon Peres in the 1980s.
"I know we have an image as a party that decapitates its leaders after every general election," she said. "I intend to be the rare Labor leader who gets chosen for a second term. This will stabilize us and give us more power and credibility with the public. But if someone else wins, I will stand by the victor as happens in a democratic party without threatening to split the faction."