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(photo credit: )
At one stage, the cynical questions of reporters at Labor's press conference Tuesday exasperated campaign manager Ronny Rimon so much that he began wildly prophesying. "On March 29, Amir Peretz will leave his home in Sderot and move to Balfour Street in Jerusalem," he said.
Another sardonic journalist called out, "Is he going to demonstrate there?"
"I hope you're planning to also ask Olmert these questions," was Rimon's retort.
All the parties - that is, all the parties besides Kadima - seem to be adopting a similar attitude towards the press. The consensus is that Ehud Olmert has the media in his pocket and therefore the reporters covering the campaign are, if not enemies, at least collaborators.
For anyone who has spent time covering the right-wing and religious parties, there's nothing new about the hostility underlying relationships with politicians. But it's come as a surprise over the last few weeks to hear similar refrains from the normally media-friendly Left.
Last week at Meretz's campaign launch, it was ad chief Eilon Zarmon complaining that "all the media is with Kadima." Mild-mannered Rimon didn't accuse the press corps outright, but he was ready with acerbic asides for reporters who were critical of Labor's latest campaign.
With all fairness, Labor's spokespeople did say in December that the "Time has come" campaign was a temporary one and wouldn't last until election day. The charges that the party was changing horses midstream were not totally justified.
On the other hand, they didn't even try and claim that the old slogan had been a success. It's true that the media, especially Yediot Aharonot, have done a lot to discredit Amir Peretz as a potential prime minister and given Olmert up until now an easy ride, but the fact that Labor's campaign just hasn't caught on isn't the fault of the press.
The Labor team has been dogged by bad luck and bad tactics from the day Peretz was voted party leader. Yesterday, for example, the new slogan was supposed to be revealed amid fanfare at the press conference, but a misunderstanding with the advertising company led to it going up hours before on hoardings all around Tel Aviv. The scheduling was also lousy, a couple of hours before Omri Sharon's sentencing. Did they seriously think that the press would give them much space on a day when the prime minister's son was convicted?
But perhaps the biggest giveaway was the new slogan - "Fighting terror, beating poverty."
Peretz's agenda is one of social and fiscal reform, Labor's innovative programs are about education and pensions and its most effective line of attack against Kadima is on the party's corrupt ties with big money. On all these subjects, Peretz has a lot to say, and with authority.
So why are his advisers bowing to the media and the establishment and putting terror at the top of their campaign? It's not as if they have anything new to say about it; Rimon actually admitted that Labor has no criticism of the government's anti-terror policy.
But surveys still say that it's the public's chief concern, and Labor's strategists are desperate from the prolonged slump in the polls and feel they have no choice but to resort to the tried and true. No wonder Peretz himself didn't show up at the press conference.