In theory (at least) Israel's next prime minister might hail from Labor. Considering the very tangible (and tragically irreparable) harm Labor governments wrought via their Osloite folly (and which Labor continues to exacerbate via coalitions it props up), we cannot afford to ignore the possibility that Labor could be entrusted with the national helm. That makes the choice of Labor's next prime-ministerial nominee anything but a no-account tussle within the shrinking band of party faithful. Since Labor's shenanigans impact us all, it's critical we understand just how Labor's headliner secures his party's top billing. It's all very telling. The leadership primary proper is less significant than the preceding membership drive, which establishes who may cast primary ballots. This is where the scam starts. There's no heady ideological rush to the faded banner of Berl Katznelson and David Ben-Gurion. Instead candidates employ shady specialists known colloquially as "vote contractors." The primary winner is by no means the best man, but the one whose contractor most skillfully skews the system. Indispensable contractors sign up supposed members, chiefly where substantial numbers can be recruited at once - unions (Ami Ayalon promised the mighty Israel Electric Corporation employees to oppose privatizing their power base), disaffected development towns (where make-believe Laborites afterwards vote Likud or Shas), kibbutzim (Labor's weightiest component but barely 2% of the population) and the Arab sector (which in 2005 accounted for 33% of Labor's membership). TOGETHER kibbutzniks and Arabs comprise roughly half of Labor. The kibbutzim turned out in near unison (the likes of which is unequaled these days outside Syria and North Korea) for either of the two kibbutz-born boys - Ayalon or Ehud Barak. The latter appeared to have kindled boundless enthusiasm among Arab voters, though ever since the October 2000 riots Barak is reportedly afraid to enter such bastions of animosity as Umm el-Fahm. His implausible feat may lead us to take a moment and ponder how Barak - of all contenders - could manage a whopping majority where he's considered anathema. Smells of fish? No less fishy is the fact that Amir Peretz managed to gain 22.4% of the total vote (and, according to popular wisdom, awesome tie-breaking clout) despite indisputably coming a cropper as defense minister. Peretz too, it seems, is another unexpected whale of a hit among Israel's Arab citizens, who flock with remarkable gusto to participate in the primaries of a party for which they don't vote in subsequent Knesset elections. Labor would be lucky to garner a dozen votes in villages which boosted Peretz with many hundreds of primary ballots each. It doesn't end there. Peretz, though ostensibly knocked out of the runoff, celebrates nevertheless and crows as the crafty kingmaker. Had Labor's primaries not reeked of foul fish, we might be forgiven for asking how Peretz presumes to control his first-round supporters. Why is he confident they'll obey his command and opt for the alternative he recommends? It's because he and Ayalon (a priori assured of Peretz's nod) both know that Peretz's primary enlistees are bogus Laborites whose only function is to be at Peretz's beck and call. IT'S NOT for nothing that Peretz's chief negotiator and power broker is none other than Ghaleb Majadle, whom Peretz installed - literally on the eve of the membership drive - as Israel's first Muslim minister. Now Majadle haggles in Peretz's name, makes promises and elicits deals in return for the sizable Arab vote he guarantees - not because Labor's ethos suddenly gripped the hearts of his kinfolk. Majadle's network enrolled numerous scions of extensively affiliated clans as overnight Labor members for the specific purpose of pulling a fast one. Later, in the general elections, they'll vote according to their true passions - for the list which impresses them as most venomously anti-Zionist. For now they fiddle cynically with the internal machinations of a party they realize could conceivably produce a premier. They who last summer applauded Hizbullah (against which Peretz took arms, albeit farcically), and sympathize with Hamas (against which Peretz professes to fight), give Peretz (whom they purportedly oppose) the power to decide who might govern Israel. Majadle, their man in Peretz's clique, could be instrumental in crowning Israel's next PM. Yet Majadle hardly identifies with the country in whose government he serves and with whose future he toys. Majadle, for those who forget, objects to the national anthem, which - along with Israel's flag and emblem - he considers offensively Jewish. Fly-by-night frauds could be foiled - without hint of religious/ethnic discrimination - by limiting primary participation eligibility to dues-payers who stick around for a two-year minimum. Why isn't this scarcely new or original proposal adopted? Because without mock mass-mobilization Labor's actual following would be exposed as embarrassingly pitiful. Without rogue registrations no hanky-panky is feasible, and Labor might be stuck with an honest choice - like Ophir Paz-Pines or Danny Yatom, both of whom failed miserably because they weren't crooked enough to succeed. In Israel's insane-asylum democracy no man perhaps is better qualified to tinker with the Jewish state's survival-potential than the honcho who rejects its Jewishness. A minority, which long ago ceased even pretending loyalty to this state, crucially distorts its democracy. No Labor leadership aspirant can emerge on top of his party's heap without the dubious aid of counterfeit rank-and-filers - here today and gone tomorrow, when they'll side with Ahmed Tibi, Taleb a-Sanaa, Jamal Zahalka, Wasal Taha and other similiar "lovers of Zion." First, however, the groupies of the above will have been seminal in deciding who might in theory (at least) run the Jewish state - maybe into the ground. Remember this before voting Labor.