Yacimovich courts Center as Labor primary ongoing

Labor party head defends comments that list could be "too left-wing," says peace, 2-state solution are "central vision" in Israel.

Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich on Thursday morning touted her party's historic role in the establishment of the State of Israel, as members began voting in the party primary.
Labor’s 60,424 members will vote in 140 booths in 68 locations from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday. Only those who joined the party at least six months ago are eligible to participate in the primary.
Speaking in an interview with Army Radio, Yacimovich defended her comments from Wednesday that she hoped the party list would not be "too left-wing," contending that the Labor Party has traditionally represented the political Center.
"Labor is the party that established the State of Israel and has always represented the central camp in the state," Yacimovich stated.
She said that her desire for Labor to be a party representing the Center did not mean that she was abandoning the peace process.
"Unequivocally, the Labor Party wants peace and believes in the two-state solution, that is a central vision of the Israeli society... not a marginal school of thought."
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In the weeks after the election was called, Yacimovich held press conferences with primary candidates she prefers, like her former aide Michal Biran, former National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuly and religious-Zionist educator Chili Tropper, but has avoided contact and public appearances with those further to the left, such as Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer and feminist columnist Merav Michaeli.
While some of Yacimovich’s star candidates are expected to do well in the primary, others have made alliances to boost their position in the party.
Former Labor leader Amir Peretz recently reconciled with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini after years of disputes; both are former Yacimovich allies whose relationship with her soured. Peretz also received a boost in popularity from Operation Pillar of Defense, as he pushed the Iron Dome missile defense system ahead when he was defense minister, and supports MKs Eitan Cabel, Daniel Ben-Simon and Ghaleb Majadle.
Also this week, Labor made several changes to its primary system after observing trends in the Likud vote on Sunday and Monday.
The primary will be semi-computerized, after Likud’s digital election system crashed. Labor members will vote on paper forms, which will be scanned and counted by computer.
Results are expected to come in early Friday morning.
This is not the first time Labor has dealt with computer troubles. In 2008, the party postponed its primary by eight days, after the computers used for the vote did not work properly.
Labor also decided this week not to publicize results in different regions, minimizing the influence of pressure groups, because they will not be able to check whether their members voted for the candidates they support.
In addition, the voting will be by name, not numerical, in an attempt to ensure party members know the candidates they are electing and are not voting from a list prepared by someone else.
“We worked hard and with great responsibility and reached the best decision, which allows for an organized, democratic and free election,” Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar said.
“The party will take every step to have a clean vote.”