Analysis: What keeps bringing Labor down?

Even after surviving several serious internal crises, it keeps crashing in the polls.

Barak 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barak 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Labor Party doesn't seem to be able to catch a break. Even after surviving several serious internal crises, it keeps crashing in the polls. On Tuesday night, Channel 1 published a Geocartography poll according to which Labor would only get seven Knesset seats in the upcoming election, compared to the 19 it won last time. The poll found that even Meretz would do better than Labor, with eight seats instead of five. But not only Labor should be concerned. The same poll showed Kadima getting only 25 seats compared to 29 last time, with the Likud zooming to 35 from its previous 12. So why does Labor continue sinking in the polls from week to week? It can't just be the internal crises involving Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon's leaving the party to form a list with another former Labor MK, Michael Melchior of Meimad, or Ophir Paz-Pines's threat to leave the party, since rescinded. Labor also seems to have gotten over the rumors that prominent Israelis were thinking of forming a new party, among them former party members Uzi Baram, Avraham Burg and Shlomo Ben-Ami. These rumors made headlines and then faded away. Nor can it be the internal wrangling about reserving safe spots on the party list. Most likely it's the defeatist starting point from where Labor's leader appears to be running the campaign. At the moment Barak is apparently assuming that Labor will have to band together with Kadima if Tzipi Livni's party wins. Barak even announced that he would not hesitate to chair the opposition in the next Knesset, a brave statement from a person who abandoned political life after losing to former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2001. Not once has Barak been quoted recently as saying he aspires to be prime minister. On the contrary, he keeps admitting that he will not be the next premier, that the time wasn't ripe for this yet. Regarding the Likud, Barak said several times that Labor would not team up with any party whose political guidelines are not in keeping with those of Labor. But this is just another way of saying that if the Likud wins, and it declares the day after the elections that it would work towards peace agreements with the Palestinians and the Syrians, Labor would have no problem cooperating. While Barak sincerely believes that neither Kadima nor the Likud are interested in making peace with Israel's neighbors or in improving the social conditions of Israeli citizens, he doesn't seem to be able to gain the public's affection - perhaps because he still lives in a super-luxury apartment in the Akirov Towers in Tel Aviv with Nilie Priel, for whom he left his wife Nava, the mother of his three daughters, in 2003. Even if Binyamin Netanyahu also has a history replete with what some Israelis might consider questionable personal incidents, he can benefit from the public's short memory. Israelis tend to forget easily, and they've had 10 years to forget what they didn't appreciate about Netanyahu as prime minister between 1996-99.