Labor activists challenge Yacimovich's list

Yacimovich: Changes ensure attactive, values-driven list for Knesset; district secretaries say system limits representation.

Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Veteran Labor activists frustrated with party leader Shelly Yacimovich’s tactics and celebrity candidates worked to maintain their representation on the party’s list for the 19th Knesset ahead of the Labor central committee meeting on Tuesday.
“This is suicide,” MK Ghaleb Majadle said of Yacimovich’s planned changes. “No one is buying what she offers.”
Yacimovich seeks to change the list’s format from having saved spots, to one of ensured representation – meaning that, if a candidate from Jerusalem is elected to one of the top spots on the list, then the 31st slot will no longer be saved for a Jerusalem resident.
The change also means that all candidates will be elected via the regular primary list, and not in a special vote in each districts.
In the new format, Arabs and Druse share the 18th and 26th spots on the list, while kibbutzim and moshavim are also grouped together for numbers 17 and 25.
According to Yacimovich, the changes will ensure that “Labor’s list for the next Knesset will be attractive and values-driven, and chosen in the most democratic way possible, giving expression to the public’s desires.”
The Labor leader explained that the new format will prevent a situation in which a person elected with a small amount of votes will be put in a higher spot than a more popular candidate.
“I realize this is a difficult process that upsets those who were used to getting a seat in the Knesset without trying or communicating with the public, but I want to make sure we have the strongest list possible in this election,” she added.
Meanwhile, Labor activists around the country spoke out against the change, calling for central committee members to vote against it on Tuesday night.
Majadele explained that Arab and Druse spots were always separate, and the Arab MK came first, because he represents a larger group.
“What is the connection between Arabs, 29 percent of the population, and Druse, 8%?” Majadele asked. “To have us in the same spot is disproportionate. Plus, we are two totally different populations with different problems. One serves in the army, one doesn’t. All we have in common is language.”
The Labor MK also expressed disappointment that the Arab slot was dropped to the 18th spot, saying that as a former minister who represents a large district in Labor, he deserves to be higher up.
Also, as Majadele pointed out, there is a possibility that two Arabs or two Druse would be elected, thus preventing one of the groups from being properly represented.
“If the party has social leadership, it should give a voice to the impoverished Arab population,” he added. “They’re disrespecting Arab voters.”
Omer Netzer, an activist from Haifa, is leading protests by district representatives to keep the party’s old system.
“How can someone from Tel Aviv vote for a representative from Haifa? They don’t know each other,” he said.
“Interest groups will take over, and only rich people will be able to run, because it costs hundreds of thousands of shekels to go for the national list.” Netzer added that it is unfair to change the rules so late in the game, and called ensured representation “meaningless words.”
The Haifa activist has spoken with district secretaries who plan to vote against Yacimovich’s system, and hopes to gather signatures to have a vote by hidden ballot on Tuesday.
Tel Aviv city councilman and Labor district secretary Shmulik Mizrahi was skeptical that 10% of the activists at the central committee meeting will sign a petition for a vote by hidden ballot, though he supported its aims.
“The new method destroys the districts,” Mizrahi explained. “The districts wants someone who represents them, not someone who happens to live in the same area as them.”
For example, Mizrahi pointed out, Labor MK Daniel Ben- Simon lives in Jaffa, and as such could be considered the representative of underprivileged neighborhoods, even though he is not running for that slot.
Mizrahi also lamented planned changes in the party’s bylaws, such as one that would allow Yacimovich to make major decisions with a small group of five senior party officials, rather than call the central committee, which consists of about 1,700 people.
Former Labor Young Guard chairman and current party primary candidate Eran Hermoni said the new system makes it difficult for “people who grew up in Labor” to reach top spots on the party’s list for the 19th Knesset.
“Famous people and people with money have an advantage in the primary, but most of the stars and celebrities brought in don’t understand politics, don’t bring in seats and have no connection to party activists,” Hermoni explained. “Yacimovich is the exception, because she worked hard and was an active MK.”
According to Hermoni, veteran Labor members “want to elect people committed to the party.”