Labor: A party of political cannibals

Analysis: Although Yacimovich will likely blame Herzog for stretching the rules to win Labor election, former opposition leader really only has herself to blame.

Herzog (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
In the Neanderthal era when cannibalism was prevalent, they would start with the fleshy part of the body and barely touch the head.
That isn’t so in the Labor party.
In Labor, the politicians devour the head first, and only then finish off the rest of the party for dessert.
Former heads including Ehud Barak, Avraham Burg (for one day), Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, Amram Mitzna, Shimon Peres, Amir Peretz, Ehud Barak again, and now Shelly Yacimovich, all faced the knives of the party of political cannibals.
But with Yacimovich, it was different because she had the support of the overwhelming majority of the faction. Only three MKs backed Isaac Herzog, Labor’s new chairman.
Yacimovich has only herself to blame for the loss in an election that was a referendum on her leadership.
She was given a chance to lead Labor in a general election under the best circumstances when war and peace were not issues and when the summer social economic protests were not yet forgotten.
Nevertheless, she won only 15 seats.
Labor members blamed her for the party’s poor showing, for her failure to build herself as an alternative to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and for the long years of drought in the opposition.
Herzog was a worthy and experienced candidate, who earned respect in the party and did not make enemies the way Yacimovich did. He deserves credit for leading a smart campaign, raising three times as much money as Yacimovich, and forging partnerships behind the scenes with MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who attended the victory party, and Histadrut Chief Ofer Eini, who complained to Herzog that he neglected to mention him in his victory speech.
Yacimovich’s associates will undoubtedly blame the loss on Herzog raising too much money and stretching the rules of what is permitted.
But Yacimovich can really only blame herself.
She arrogantly refused to hire a political strategist, thinking she knew better than the professionals. She thought she could get by on small contributions from average citizens in an era of mega-fundraising.
It was Yacimovich’s decision to advance the race to a time that she thought was best for her. She chose to prevent a membership drive from being held, in a move that should have helped her.
She even controlled the members of the election committee, who privately backed Herzog and even did so on their Facebook page. Yacimovich decided how the election would be run and how the votes would be counted – very slowly, just in case.
A critical mistake that she made was focusing her negative campaign on a false charge that Herzog would take Labor into Netahyahu’s government the day after the election. That was never his intention.
If there’s a major surprise and the peace process with the Palestinians advanced significantly and if Labor is needed in the government to ensure that a peace plan would pass, Herzog would join. But so would Yacimovich.
Their views on joining were actually the same.
The elections showed that Labor members did not mind so much the prospect of being part of the government again. But Herzog prefers to build a bloc of all the Center- Left in the opposition that can challenge Netanyahu.
Chances are Labor will not be part of the current government at all.
But that does not mean that Herzog’s election does not help the peace process.
The very fact that Herzog is the leader of Labor is enough for Netanyahu to threaten Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett that he has an alternative in the coalition if he causes him too much trouble.
Herzog will serve as a deterrent weapon for Netanyahu to use against the Right as he tries to advance the diplomatic process.
Bennett is a loser in this race, almost as much as Yacimovich.
The only loser of the race who might have been hurt even more than her is Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who now has serious competition for the leadership of the Center-Left. If he does not get the economy back on track soon, his voters, who shied away from Labor under Yacimovich, can now vote for Herzog.
Now Herzog has been given a chance to lead Labor in the next general election, a prospect that his opponents on the Right are clearly not keen on.
But like his predecessors, he must watch his back – and his head.