Labor compromises over primary date

Party elections won't be delayed; 9,000 out of 30,000 can appeal voting bans.

eitan cabel 298.88 (photo credit: Knesset [file])
eitan cabel 298.88
(photo credit: Knesset [file])
Labor's leadership primaries will be held on time on November 9, after the party's internal court decided on Sunday to limit the number of disqualified party members allowed to appeal their disqualifications to only 9,000. A bitter debate concerning the primaries erupted within the party. Leadership candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer wanted to allow 30,000 disqualified members to appeal, a move that Labor secretary-general Eitan Cabel warned would force him to delay the primary for a potentially embarrassing second time. The court ordered Cabel to publish the list of some 98,000 people who have joined the party legally. The final number of Labor members eligible to vote in the race will be announced on November 1 after the 9,000 appeals have been heard. Cabel praised the ruling, vowing to "continue the election process in an orderly fashion." Ben-Eliezer's campaign slammed the decision and accused Cabel of acting for his own personal interests instead of the good of the party. "Ben-Eliezer will continue fighting with full force against the disqualifications of thousands of legitimate Labor members who only wanted to exercise their democratic right to influence the election for Labor's prime ministerial candidate," Ben-Eliezer's spokesman said. "Cabel is harming the party with his failed management." The ruling came after some 10 hours of deliberations that stretched into the night, and many technical details regarding whom will be allowed to appeal, have yet to be decided. Ben-Eliezer had initially issued a statement praising the decision, only to realize hours later that it turned against him. The campaign of incumbent Labor chairman Shimon Peres said he was glad that the election would be able to take place on time. Polls published over the weekend found that Peres has a wide lead over his challengers. A Dahaf Institute poll in Yediot Aharonot predicted that Peres would win the 40 percent of support from Labor members necessary to avoid a two-man runoff race. According to the poll, Histadrut Labor Federation chief Amir Peretz would get 23% of the vote, Science and Technology Minister Matan Vilna'i 16% and Ben-Eliezer 11%. A Dialogue Institute poll published in Ha'aretz ound that a majority of Labor members would prefer that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon head their party instead of the current Labor leadership candidates. The Jerusalem Post reported in August that two Labor MKs said that Sharon would be the best man to lead their party. Peretz announced on Sunday that he would begin a three-day whistle-stop tour on Wednesday that will take him to Netivot, Ashkelon, Jerusalem, Tiberias and the settlement of Ofarim. During the tour, he will try to convince Labor members that he could bring more Likud voters to the party than any other candidate.