Labor leaders buoyed by rise in polls

Peretz: "No matter what happens, the Education portfolio is of top importance to us."

amir peretz biz 88 (photo credit: )
amir peretz biz 88
(photo credit: )
Bolstered by their party's recent rise in the polls, Labor officials took an optimistic line Tuesday as they drew their own political map following next week's elections. In an impromptu poll, MKs Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Colette Avital and Isaac Herzog, and candidates Ami Ayalon, Ilan Marciano and Shelley Yacimovich predicted that Labor would win more than 25 mandates, with several even promising more than 30. While recent polls placed Labor at 23 mandates at most, party officials heralded the upswing as the "start of the revolution." Upswing or not, behind the scenes of Chairman Amir Peretz's whistle stop campaign other Labor officials discussed what it would take for Labor to join a coalition led by Kadima, which has consistently held the lead in the polls. While some claimed that Labor would demand one of the top four portfolios - the Defense, Finance, Industry and Trade and Foreign Affairs - others said the party would consider joining a coalition as long as it received the Education Ministry, which Peretz has promised to MK Yuli Tamir. "No matter what happens, the Education portfolio is of top importance to us," Peretz said. "Education is where it all begins and there is no comparing Yuli [Tamir] to [Uriel] Reichman." Ariel Sharon had promised Reichman the Education Ministry when he joined the party. Others have speculated that Herzog, No. 2 on the Labor list, may be given the Justice Ministry, although officials said he has been eying the Foreign Ministry for some time. Most said that Labor's demands would depend on its showing on Election Day. "Let's put it this way, more than 23 mandates and we will be in a serious position to make demands," said one senior party official. "But that's only if we don't win the election itself." Meanwhile, Peretz toured the Jerusalem area on Tuesday, amid boisterous crowds of well-wishers. Several campaign officials, including Anat Wilf, a former aide to Shimon Peres, said that Labor had never received such a warm welcome in Jerusalem.