The new members are threatening to push out the old guard.
By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL
The Labor Party list is beginning to resemble an all-star lineup, say embittered incumbent members who are feeling the pressure to secure a spot in the next Knesset.
The new members are threatening to push out the old guard, said Labor MKs, especially since each new signing has been highly publicized.
More than a dozen high-profile members have joined the Labor party over the past two weeks, with backgrounds ranging from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev President Avishay Braverman to broadcast journalist Shelly Yehimovic. Labor Party officials deny that the new recruits had been secured spots on the election slate, but several MKs suggested Wednesday that Peretz's endorsement may be all the security needed.
"I welcome all the new members, but it cannot be allowed that the chairman recommends certain party members over others," said Labor MK Danny Yatom.
Peretz, however, has tried to calm the veteran members, promising that he would not hand out endorsements.
"All Labor veterans will be part of the party leadership," said Peretz. "I will recommend to the members when they vote to include veteran leadership and new leadership, even Barak."
Although a Labor official suggested that Yatom may be one of those feeling pressure from the new members, Yatom said he felt "secure" that he would have a spot in the 17th Knesset.
"The Labor Party members are smart enough to pick the best people to represent them, and I believe the list that will be chosen will be compiled of old and new members from all sectors of society," said Yatom.
MK Colette Avital, however, explained that the Labor list would be compiled under a complex set of rules that may push out some members in favor of others.
The national party list has 16 realistic spots. Of those, three are reserved for Peretz, Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel and MK Michael Melchior (as part of the merger agreement between Labor and Melchior's faction, Meimad). Four spots will be reserved for female MKs, while an additional three MKs, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Isaac Herzog and Ophir Paz-Pines, are thought to have sure spots, said labor party officials. That leaves six spots for the rest of the members to fill.
"I am more troubled by those leaving us than those joining," said Paz-Pines. "No official list has been created, but I feel certain that Herzog and I will be at the start of the list."
New candidates such as former Jerusalem police chief Aryeh Amit, Braverman and Yehimovic are also thought to have a good chance of getting a spot on the list, as do MKs with close relationships to Peretz, such Yuli Tamir.
MKs who don't make the first sixteen spots are pushed to spot number 27, as spots 16-26 are reserved for MKs representing different sectors, such as immigrant communities, the Druse population, and the kibbutz movement.
"Sometimes, because of this system, there are unfortunate placements that happen," said Avital. "The order of the list gets shuffled."
Avital and Yatom face competition for spots from Ehud Barak and MKs Matan Vilna'i, and Ephraim Sneh will all be vying for spots, said a Labor party official.
"Sometimes you do things even if they aren't smart," a source close to Barak said regarding his decision to stay in Labor. "Sometimes you have to fall on your own sword."
Meanwhile, rumblings were also heard in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new party Kadima, ironically caused by the addition of decamping Labor MKs.
"There are too many leftists crowding our list who will scare away many more voters than they will bring," said one Kadima MK. He added that only after Sharon drew up his list would the real complaining in the party begin.
So far, 19 MKs have joined the party - 14 from Likud, three from Labor and independent MKs David Tal and Michael Nudelman. All the MKs except for Peres are seeking a slot on the Kadima list, as are outsiders Avi Dichter and Ronit Tirosh and most likely Kiryat Shmona mayor Haim Barbivai. Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya President Uriel Reichman joined the party but is not running for the Knesset.
Labor MK Shalom Simhon announced on Wednesday that he would stay in Labor, leaving the Likud's Haim Katz as the only MK still being seriously pursued by Kadima.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.