Labor to decide list amid low expectations

The 44 candidates running will be competing over very few realistic slots. Party leader Avi Gabbay will be first on the list.

Labor Party chair Avi Gabbay speaks at his party's conference, January 10th, 2019 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Labor Party chair Avi Gabbay speaks at his party's conference, January 10th, 2019
More than 60,000 Labor Party members will be eligible to vote on Monday in a primary for the beleaguered former ruling party that is currently receiving only four to seven seats in the polls.
Many of the 84 polling stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., but nearly half will only be open for a few hours. Because the voting is computerized, results are expected by 10 p.m.
The 44 candidates running will be competing for very few realistic slots. Party leader Avi Gabbay, who will be first on the list, obtained permission from the party to appoint his own candidate for the second slot. There are also several slots reserved for women.
The candidates spent Sunday calling Labor members and urging them to vote. Labor candidates running for reelection said many members would not vote because they intend to cast ballots for other parties in the April 9 election.
“Together, we will elect a winning team,” Gabbay said in a video message sent to Labor members. “Go vote for the best team in the Knesset.”
The candidate facing the toughest challenge in the race is veteran MK Eitan Cabel, who Gabbay is determined to keep out of the next Knesset. Media outlets have compared Gabbay’s efforts against Cabel to what Netanyahu attempted to do last week to stymie the candidacy of former minister Gideon Sa’ar ahead of last Tuesday’s Likud primary.
Labor MK Mickey Rosenthal, who is not running for reelection in the primary, told Channel 12 on Sunday that the party was in poor shape because of Gabbay, “who thinks he’s God.”
The only Labor MK to put out a campaign ad in English was Stav Shaffir. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten praised Shaffir’s public diplomacy efforts in the ad.
“She brings with her a passion – not just for progressive Zionism, but for what that represents: a shared society, peace, security for all,” Weingarten said in the video. “A fight against racial bigotry, a fight against economic inequality, and a fight for the kind of Israel that all of us have always looked up to.”
Following the primary, there will be efforts to unite Labor with other parties ahead of the February 21 deadline for lists to be submitted to the Central Elections Committee. One possibility is for the party to run together with former prime minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak.
Another unlikely possibility is for Labor to run on a joint list with Meretz. Activists of both parties pushed for a merger at an event held Saturday night in Tel Aviv. They urged for a combined list to be formed by the two parties called the Zionist Left.
KAN news reported that Meretz was actively trying to split the Labor faction and draft MKs from the party to run with Meretz, which has its own primary on Thursday.
One bond that will apparently not be formed is between the Israel Resilience Party of former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz and the Gesher party of MK Orly Levy-Abecassis.
In an interview with Channel 12, Levy-Abecassis said she was undaunted by polls indicating that Gesher would not cross the 3.25% electoral threshold on its own.
“Gesher is planning to run alone,” she said. “I don’t care about being a minister. I care about advancing the issues I believe in. There are no contacts between me and Gantz. To advance the issues that matter, there must be a party that puts the issues that matter first.”
Yvette J. Deane contributed to this report.