Labor contenders become telemarketers for a day

Candidates make personal calls to undecided voters, pleading for support.

labor montage 88 (photo credit: )
labor montage 88
(photo credit: )
Former prime minister Ehud Barak only gave one press conference and no interviews during his five-month race for the Labor leadership, but he outlined his diplomatic policies in depth to undecided party members on the phone on Sunday. The five candidates for Labor chairman finished traveling across the country on the eve of Monday's primary. Instead, they stayed in their Tel Aviv offices calling undecided voters and pleading for support. Barak and six Labor MKs who back him manned the phones in his campaign headquarters. He assured one skeptical voter that he had kept his 1999 campaign promise to help an old woman in Nahariya Government Hospital, while assuring another voter named Yiftah that he was serious about reaching peace with the Palestinians. "We have a historical and personal responsibility to do everything possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians when there's a partner on the other side who can make the necessary decisions for his people," Barak told Yiftah. "I'm the last person in Israel who has to prove that he'd be willing to go far if there's a partner, but we haven't seen a Palestinian [Anwar] Sadat or [King] Hussein." Some Labor members were skeptical that it was really Barak on the line, but he assured them that his voice and his lisp were authentic. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who sat next to Barak, tried to convince voters not to trust the polls and not to let their personal dislike of the former prime minister influence their vote. "You have to appeal to them intellectually and emotionally," Ben-Eliezer said afterward. "You have to persuade them intellectually that only Barak can beat [Likud chairman Binyamin] Netanyahu, and overcome their animosity [toward Barak] by talking to them about the security of their children. The ultimate answer, though, is that the alternatives are even worse." Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said he heard from Labor members on the phones that they wanted the race to end in one round, with no June 11 runoff. He said that to that end, he tried to convince them not to vote for candidates trailing far behind in the race. MK Ami Ayalon and his ally MK Avishay Braverman sat next to each other, calling Labor activists loyal to them. Braverman called the race "the most difficult struggle ever in Israel." Ayalon sent a videotaped message to Labor members calling upon them to vote. MK Ophir Paz-Pines sent Labor members a similar message. He called on them to "vote with their hearts" for the candidate that they truly believed in, and not to support one of the front-runners. MK Danny Yatom sat with members of his family calling Labor members. The only candidate who did not campaign on Sunday was the incumbent, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who was too busy dealing with the security situation in Sderot. While the other candidates each intend to visit a dozen polling stations across the country on Monday, Peretz intends to vote in Sderot and then go straight to work at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Instead, the MKs who support him will campaign on his behalf. In a message to Labor members, Peretz vowed to "defeat the polls again."