By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
The current crisis in Labor provides an opportunity for the party to be reborn and win 35 seats in the next election, Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday, a day after the 80th anniversary of the founding of Labor's forerunner, Mapai.
The minister spoke as politicians marked the anniversary by eulogizing Labor, and the party's former secretary-general, Labor rebel MK Eitan Cabel, told the Knesset that the party was "only alive due to respirators and life-support systems."
Braverman, who is a potential candidate in the next Labor leadership race in October 2012, said changes could be made to save the party and allow it to return to its former role as the main alternative to the Likud, supplanting the Kadima Party that is suffering from a crisis of its own.
Although Braverman has been careful not to undermine Labor's current leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he hinted that a change in leadership should be the first step in Labor's comeback.
"Regime change is healthy for society," Braverman said. "A regime that lasts too long inevitably becomes corrupt."
Braverman said he looked back at 80 years of Mapai with respect, at the current state of Labor with pain, and at the future with hope. A former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, he traced the party's problems to its leaders disregarding what he said was Ben-Gurion's advice to return the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan and Egypt immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War.
He said that to rebuild the public's trust, Labor needed to be rebuilt as a social-democratic party focused on socioeconomic issues on which he said a majority of the public agreed with the party's agenda. He suggested that this would allow Sephardim, Russian immigrants, Arabs, and young people to return to the party.
The other issue that Braverman said the party should focus on is changing the political system. He said he backed giving more power to the prime minister to allow him to govern better and electing half the Knesset in direct, regional elections.
Braverman dismissed the political eulogies from Cabel and other Labor rebels and said he believed the party could become unified again.
"All we really need is some positive energy," he said.
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