The message at the Labor Party's pre-Pessah toast Thursday evening was one of party unity in the run-up to elections, but the absence of MK Amir Peretz and his close ally MK Yoram Marciano served as a striking reminder that party unity remains elusive. "I hope that from this meeting we come out unified and we put the fights aside and unify as one family," said National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, in a message echoed by other party heavy-hitters. At the festive event, held at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters in the Hatikva neighborhood, MKs also expressed optimism that the fractious party was turning over a new leaf in its popularity quest among Israeli voters. "The color is returning to the party and whoever eulogized it made a critical error," said Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon repeated Herzog's sentiments and took them a step further, saying that if the party could only learn to work together, "[Defense Minister] Ehud Barak will be prime minister of the State of Israel in less than a year." Despite the repetitive tone of most of the pre-holiday statements, a few party members stood out by offering new ideas for Labor. Education Minister Yuli Tamir proposed moving the annual meeting of the party's convention from the north Tel Aviv campus of Tel Aviv University to the Kassam-plagued Be'eri Regional Council headquarters. Barak, considered the shoo-in for the party's candidate for prime minister in the next election, dedicated part of his brief address to reinforce the importance of the role of the Supreme Court, which he described as "the cornerstone of a stable and flourishing democracy." Barak, too, emphasized the need for unity, acknowledging that "the party is going through a difficult time," but assuring members that "as soon as we link arms together, we will win. We will struggle together and fight together until we return to lead the country."