Herzog promises to make Labor a 'mass movement' again

Party leadership candidate calls Yacimovich a failure, warns that not reaching a peace deal will bring apartheid; Merav Michaeli makes surprise show of support.

fmr minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Isaac Herzog 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
fmr minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Isaac Herzog 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Labor chairman Shelly Yacimovich failed her party, MK Isaac Herzog said on Thursday.
Herzog declared himself victorious at a campaign event in Tel Aviv, three weeks before the Labor leadership primary.
Speaking to a packed house with campaign signs reading “We will win,” Herzog ascended the stage to cheers of “Buji, Buji,” his nickname, and “the next prime minister.”
“We will win! We will bring Labor back to the days when most of the public supported it,” he said.
Herzog said Yacimovich was a failure as a party leader, leading Labor “from a mass movement to a niche party.
“Under Yacimovich, Labor will not be strong and won’t lead the government. Yacimovich isn’t bringing people who are disappointed with Yesh Atid back to our party,” he said.
The Labor leadership candidate said the party under Yacimovich “says what’s wrong but not what should be done,” adding that “leadership is not in headlines but in action.”
Herzog discussed the importance of a peace treaty, saying that without one “there are two options: An apartheid state or one that is very different from what we have now.
“Without peace, we cannot fix the problems in society,” he remarked, a reference to what is seen as his strong suit and Yacimovich’s weak area, diplomacy.
“On November 22 [the day after the primary], Labor will go back to being itself again.
On November 22, we will win,” Herzog concluded.
The campaign launch opened with the Yehuda Poliker song “New Beginnings,” a not-so-thinly veiled hint at what Herzog is hoping for in the leadership race.
Campaign staffers said 1,200 party members attended the event. Most of the crowd was middle-aged and older, as opposed to Yacimovich’s supporters, who are thought to be younger – though the rival politicians are the same age, 53.
There was also a strong show of force by Arab Labor members supporting Herzog.
The party’s MK Merav Michaeli made a surprise appearance at the event, indicating for the first time that she is taking a side in the Labor race.
“I joined Labor because it believes in the three important legs Israel stands on: Peace, equality and democracy,” Michaeli said. “These are the values of the Labor Party that built the State of Israel.”
In a reference to what is seen as Yacimovich’s weak suit and Herzog’s strength, Michaeli said “there cannot be socioeconomic reforms without a security- diplomatic policy.”
After debating for several weeks because, Michaeli said, both Yacimovich and Herzog are good options, she chose the latter because “he is experienced but still a new leader and the right man to lead Labor.”
Remarking on the crowded hall, MK Eitan Cabel called the campaign launch “a display of force we haven’t seen in years in the Labor Party. I feel goosebumps looking at it.
“This isn’t just another party; this is a battle for our home,” Cabel said. “I made a decision to do what is right for the Labor Party, for Israel, for our children, and support Herzog.”
MK Erel Margalit said that “only Herzog can unite people from all over the country,” pointing out that activists came to the campaign launch from the North, South and Jerusalem.
Cabel, Margalit and Michaeli are the only other MKs backing Herzog, while nine of Labor’s 15 lawmakers – MKs Omer Bar- Lev, Nachman Shai, Moshe Mizrahi, Miki Rosenthal, Stav Shaffir, Michal Biran, Itzik Shmuli and Knesset Economics Committee chairman Avishay Braverman – support Yacimovich.
Labor secretary-general MK Hilik Bar and MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is running for president, remain neutral.
Earlier on Thursday, Herzog’s campaign announced that Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Rishon Lezion Mayor Dov Tsur and Kfar Saba Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hemo support him.
The three released a statement saying “Herzog is the right man to lead the Labor Party and strengthen it. He will bring the democracy and transparency back to the party.
Working together with him, we saw an experienced man, a leader, who will bring the party forward, strengthen it and bring back many supporters who left it.”