Labor Party leadership candidate Merav Michaeli expressed confidence on Saturday night that she will win the January 24 contest, even if former prime minister Ehud Barak joins the fray.
Barak, who has headed Labor twice, has been wooed by top party activists. He is set to make a decision on whether to run as early as Sunday.
“I invite him to run,” Michaeli said. “It is good for the party that there will be as many candidates as possible, and I believe I will win.”
If Michaeli wins, she could be the only woman heading a list in the March 23 election among more than 30 parties. Deputy Jerusalem mayor Hagit Moshe is running for leader of Bayit Yehudi in a race that will be held on Tuesday.
Michaeli said it is important for Israel that there to be a woman heading a party.
“I know from experience that women tell me they would vote for me regardless of their opinions on key issues in order to advance a woman,” she said.
Even if she wins, it is possible that Labor will run together with another party and she will not be first on the list.
“If I win, I would have to balance the need to rehabilitate the party with the need to do what is responsible based on our political power at the time,” she said. “There has been interest in the race, which belies the assessment that Labor is a corpse. It is too soon to eulogize the party.”
Former MK Lea Fadida, who is among the activists who wrote Barak urging him to run, said polls found he is the only possible viable candidate who could keep the party alive.
“I want Merav because I respect her and because she is a woman but she can’t enable us to pass the threshold,” Fadida said. “We need someone who can keep us independent and rebuild us.”
The only candidate who has declared besides Michaeli is advertising executive Gil Beilin. Labor, Social Services and Social Equality Minister Itzik Shmuli has not decided whether to run. The deadline to join the race is Friday.