At Barak's own polling place, many voters choose someone else

Claims supporters of other parties still want him as defense minister.

barak youtube debate 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
barak youtube debate 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
To the end, it was not an easy election for Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak. Even at the polling station at which he voted, near his Akirov Towers apartment in north Tel Aviv, many voters said they chose a party other than Labor. Ricki Cohen, a mother of five, said she voted for Kadima because she favored its leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. "I like what she represents and the fact that she's a woman," Cohen said. "I would not think of voting for Bibi [Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu] after what he did to the weaker sectors, and [Avigdor] Lieberman [of Israel Beiteinu] is too fanatic for me. I just hope Livni doesn't disappoint us." Renni Carmel, who voted in the same booth, opted for Kadima, too. "I have always voted for Meretz, but after much hesitation I voted for Livni and my hand was shaking while doing it," Carmel said. "I want her to win, because she is decent. I was not sure for to whom vote until the last moment, but I did it also because we must kick Bibi, Barak and Shas out of the Knesset." Reut, 25, said she had deliberated between Kadima and the Likud but "decided Bibi because I think he will do us all good, economically and security-wise." Of course, there were some who backed Labor at Barak's polling place. Moshe Gavish was responding to Barak's call the previous day, asking voters who wanted him to continue serving as defense minister to vote Labor. "I want him to stay in this position and so I voted for him," Gavish said. Dina Efrat, who also voted for Labor, said she saw it as a vote for her conscience. "Ninety percent of the time I vote for Labor," she said. "I thought that in any case Barak will be defense minister if Livni wins, but that it was not certain if Bibi wins, so I thought I should back him up and make sure he is in, no matter what." Arriving to cast their votes, Barak and his wife Nili received a warm welcome from people on the street and those lined up to vote. Surrounded by young Labor volunteers serenading him with a campaign song, Barak said he was sure that many who had abandoned Labor in the past would "come home" on this crucial day. "I am sure we will come out stronger from this day due to a public that understands that only a strong Labor can be an alternative to the right-wing bloc," he said. "Likud and Netanyahu are Right, Israel Beiteinu and Lieberman are Right, and even Kadima and Livni are two-thirds right-wingers, and you cannot be sure where this party will go after the elections." Barak said sentiment was high to retain him in his current position. "People from all parties, from Habayit Hayehudi to Meretz and even some of the Arab voters, tell me that they want me as defense minister," he said. "And I say to them that if Labor doesn't get 20 mandates or close to it, it will be hard to see that happen. Even to lead the opposition, the Labor Party needs to be big and strong." Barak paid a visit to another polling place in north Tel Aviv, where he met up with Mayor Ron Huldai. "I am glad to see that the residents of Tel Aviv-Jaffa are exercising their civil right to vote," Huldai said. Huldai and Barak hugged each other and wished each other well. "I hope that at the moment of truth the people of Tel Aviv will vote Emet," Huldai said, referring to the letters alef-mem-tav, Labor's ballot symbol and Hebrew for truth. "I voted Emet." Barak later visited Labor's headquarters in Tel Aviv to greet volunteers who were calling potential voters and offering them transportation. "We have called almost 10,000 people... and eventually we will organize transportation for 20,000," Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said. "The people we meet and speak to react well. They wish us luck and they go to vote as they say they would." Education Minister Yuli Tamir described the election campaign as the oddest she had ever seen. "There was no real election campaign," she said. "There are many parties and many people who are changing their minds at the last minute, but we see that our traditional crowd is coming out to vote." Yael Gefen, the director of Labor's call center, said she noticed true enthusiasm among party supporters. "They call us and ask real questions. I think this time around the people of Israel are voting out of careful consideration," she said. Several of the volunteers manning the phone banks said that many, including the elderly, were going out to vote. "As far as we see it, more than 50 percent of our voters went and voted," said Shani Oren, one of the headquarters' directors.