Labor could surpass Kadima as second largest party

Leadership candidates expected to bring last membership forms to party’s headquarters in registration drive that could decide the race.

Labor Party 521 (do not publish again) (photo credit: Flash 90)
Labor Party 521 (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Flash 90)
The Labor Party could surpass Kadima as Israel’s second largest party if the Labor leadership candidates tell the truth about the number of new members they registered in a membership drive set to end Tuesday.
The six candidates in the September 12 Labor primary are expected to bring in their last crates full of membership forms to the party’s headquarters in Kfar Saba on Tuesday in a registration drive that could decide the race.
Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar, who does not support any of the candidates, estimated that as of Monday night, his party’s membership rolls had risen from 27,000 before the drive to some 60,000. He said he expected the candidates to bring in many more forms on Tuesday but nowhere near the numbers they have been boasting.
MK Amir Peretz’s campaign estimated his drive at 20,000, MK Shelly Yacimovich promised 17,000, MK Isaac Herzog 12,000, former Labor leader Amram Mitzna 8,000, Union of Local Authorities in Israel head Shlomo Buhbut 5,000, and Jerusalem venture capitalist Erel Margalit 4,000.
Two Labor strongmen who do not support any candidate, Histadrut Labor Federation chief Ofer Eini and MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, said they have brought in 10,000 members, making a total of 76,000 members not including the 27,000 who were in the party before the drive.
The 103,000 members that Labor would have if the candidates, Eini and Ben-Eliezer are telling the truth would pass the 102,000 members Kadima has, according to a source familiar with official statistics in the party. Likud director- general Gadi Arieli said his party had 137,000 members, which makes it the largest.
Bar said he believed Kadima was lying about its numbers, which he said were closer to 80,000. Yet he said he still does not believe Labor’s final numbers would surpass those of Kadima when all the votes are counted and members who illegally joined both parties are eliminated.
“I don’t care if we pass Kadima,” Bar said. “I care that we are clean.”
Nevertheless, he was optimistic about the party’s growth and future survival.
“The amount of members joining Labor proves the party really won’t die. We are alive and kicking.”
Bohbut said he came back to Labor two months ago, and he has succeeded in persuading people across the country to join him.
“I have brought quality people who could be candidates for the next Knesset,” Bohbut said. “I hope with these new people we can have an impact. All of the candidates are good people and Labor members will choose who can best take the party forward.”
Bohbut said he did not believe Labor’s leader could be prime minister in the next election but he said if the leader handles himself intelligently, the election after that could be different.
“If we get 20 seats in this election, we can elect the prime minister next time,” Bohbut said. “And I know that I personally can bring Labor 20 seats.”