Student union chairman to run in Labor primary

"What started on the streets must end in the voting booth," says Itzik Shmuly.

Labor candidate Itzik Shmuli 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of Labor Party Facebook)
Labor candidate Itzik Shmuli 370
(photo credit: Courtesy of Labor Party Facebook)
National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuly announced on Wednesday his plans to run in the November Labor primary.
He resigned from his post on Wednesday, days after the student union launched a “get out the vote” campaign.
Shmuly, one of the leaders of the summer 2011 social protests, resigned from the NUIS at midnight on Tuesday, holding a press conference with Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich in Tel Aviv 12 hours later, to officially launch his political career.
“Whether to join politics or not was a major dilemma, but there was never any question as to which party to join,” Shmuly said. “Labor is the only party for the people I represent.”
Reports that Shmuly plans to join Labor have appeared in the press since early 2012. In recent weeks, he was rumored to be debating between Labor and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
Two days before Shmuly entered politics, the NUIS announced a new campaign to encourage students to vote.
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Click for full JPost coverage
The student group emphasized that their campaign will be objective, will not mention specific parties and will include use of student unions’ websites as well as on-campus events.
“Students, as young people who want to influence tomorrow’s realities must participate in the democratic process and exercise their right to vote, whatever that vote may be,” Shmuly said on Monday. “We plan to dramatically raise the rate of students who vote through many various and effective methods.”
There are 300,000 students in Israel. If they all voted they would account for approximately 11 seats in the Knesset.
In the years 2001-2009, about 65.3 percent of students voted, with groups such as young, secular students or Arab students voting at lower rates than the average.
When asked on Wednesday if he saw a problem with launching a NUIS campaign before his resignation that could help his nascent political career, Shmuly answered The Jerusalem Post in the negative.
“This wasn’t a decision made by one person. The NUIS budget hasn’t been approved yet, so the details of the campaign haven’t been decided yet,” he explained. “Plus, it encourages students to participate and vote for any party.”
Shmuly said there is no conflict of interest in encouraging students to vote shortly before he began his run for Labor’s list, because he made the final decision to join politics on Tuesday.
NUIS spokesman Eyal Basson said Shmuly resigned from the student group and will not have any connection to the enfranchisement campaign.
The student leader cited Labor’s “strong ideological basis and tradition” together with Yacimovich’s “young spirit and winds of change” as the reason for joining the party, and signed a Labor membership form in front of the cameras at the press conference.
“I had the privilege of becoming one of the leaders of the largest protest movement Israel has ever known. I was given the nickname the ‘responsible adult’ at the protests, and I think I deserved the title, because I really put faith in [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s] government – but he disappointed us,” Shmuly stated. “What started on the streets must end in the voting booth.”
The former student leader denied considering joining Yesh Atid or Likud, saying he received calls and requests and “didn’t hang up on people,” but that Labor was the only possibility.
Yacimovich pointed out that Shmuly chose a challenging path by joining a party with a primary.
“There is no doubt that I want Itzik to be on the list, and in a high spot; the fact that I’m here with him now shows that,” she said, “but Labor is a democratic party. The members will decide who they want to represent them in the Knesset.”
Labor’s primary is likely to be on November 27. The party’s central committee will decide the date at the end of October.
The party leader said Shmuly exemplifies the Labor’s ideological agenda of “putting the citizen first.”
“I asked him to join Labor a long time ago, but he wasn’t ready yet. He’s gone through a lot since then, and has chosen to go from demonstrating to acting,” Yacimovich added.
Earlier this week, social protest leader Stav Shaffir announced that she is running for the Labor list. Shaffir congratulated Shmuly for joining the party, saying it is the natural place to bring a change in Israel’s socioeconomic policies.
Also on Wednesday, venture capitalist and former Labor leadership candidate Erel Margalit announced he would run for the party’s list for the Knesset.
Later Wednesday, journalist Miki Rosenthal officially announced that he is running for Labor’s Knesset list. On Tuesday night, he hinted heavily that he was entering politics, saying on his Channel 10 show The Source that his life is about to change drastically, and asking political reporter Raviv Druker if he should commission a poll.