Labor Party Celebrates Flood of New Faces

Social protest leaders Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli will compete for spots on the party's list, as Labor's campaign incorporates social protest sentiments.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Members of other parties could only look on with envy at the flood of prominent names rushing this week to join Labor. It's the one existing party expected to be significantly bigger in the next Knesset.

News-worthy figures who have announced candidacy for a slot on Labor's list include social protest leaders Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, joined by journalist Miki Rosenthal. Labor sources say three other prominent figures may declare their candidacies next week: Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer, Haaretz journalist Merav Michaeli, and Eytan Schwartz, winner of the first season of the reality show "The Ambassador."

The party is now considering changing the structure of its slate to reduce the number of slots reserved for party activists and thereby increase the number of new "stars" it can fit onto the list.

Labor sources said that Oppenheimer, whom they consider likely to join, could actually pose a challenge for party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich, who has sought to focus the campaign on socioeconomic issues while downplaying diplomatic ones. Because Oppenheimer has instead focused relentlessly for years on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the settlements, his presence could highlight what many view as Yacimovich's weakness in this area, they said.

Schwartz, who has already made up his mind to throw his hat in the ring, has spent the last few years working to promote Tel Aviv's international branding. He is also one of the founders of the Committee for the Advancement of Refugees from Darfur.

"I joined the Labor Party during its Titanic period, when people didn't understand what anyone saw in it," he said yesterday. But as a committed socialist, he added, he saw no point in running for a slot on Labor's Knesset list until Yacimovich became the party's leader.

A source in Likud said yesterday that he "doubted any of the big names Labor has presented will cause a single Likudnik" to vote Labor instead. "But an attractive list most likely will bring more apathetic leftist voters to the polling booths on Election Day, and thereby increase the number of seats the party wins," he added.

Labor is also the first party to have launched an outdoor advertising campaign. Its posters feature photographs of what appear to be signs held by demonstrators at last summer's social protests along with the slogan, "Now go and vote. Shelly Yacimovich - the Labor Party."

But yesterday, it turned out that the signs in the posters aren't real signs used in the demonstrations, but were rather made and photographed especially for the ad campaign. Labor sources confirmed this.

The ad campaign is part of Labor's ongoing effort to identify itself with the social protests and thus attract the votes of those who participated - an effort presumably aided by Shaffir's and Shmuli's candidacies. At the time, however, Yacimovich refused to participate in the demonstrations, saying she didn't want to give them a partisan identity.

Yair Lapid also began unveiling "stars" this week who will run as part of his new Yesh Atid party. Former Shin Bet security service chief Jacob Perry announced that he will run with Lapid, and others expected to join include Herzliya Mayor Yael German, former Jerusalem District police chief Mickey Levy and Rabbi Shay Piron, an educator and activist who is executive director of Hakol Hinuch, the Movement for the Advancement of Education in Israel. Lapid is also hoping to recruit two former major-generals in the Israel Defense Forces, Elazar Stern and Moshe Kaplinsky.

In contrast, parties such as Likud, Kadima and Meretz are having trouble recruiting new stars.

Stav Shaffir on Rothschild Boulevard in October, 2011: Time for a social lobby.Credit: Moti Milrod
Shelly Yacimovich and Miki Rosenthal.Credit: Alon Ron

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