Analysis / No One Beats Him'

Boaz, an employee of the Israel Electric Corporation and Labor Party Central Committee member, approached MK Isaac Herzog yesterday afternoon and gave him a big hug.

"No one beats him," Boaz said. "At 12:15 at night, I give him a call, and he talks with me. He's been at my house 20 times. My buddies didn't believe it."

One after another, committee members on their way to or from the polling stations came up to Herzog, standing slightly harried off to the side, and told him: "We voted for you!"

The fondness expressed for Herzog soon became a flood.

At a certain point before the polls closed, Herzog, an active and effective rookie MK with less than two years in the parliament - the most diligent boy in the class - started to grow frightened that Labor's big guns - Fuad, Matan, Dalia - would demolish him.

He was wrong. They were too busy demolishing each other.

Herzog, along with the former Labor secretary general, MK Ophir Pines-Paz, a fierce oppositionist whom Sharon hoped not to find sitting around his cabinet table, slipped out of the line of fire whizzing above their heads.

The modest, non-threatening pose they created for themselves, each on his own, brought success above and beyond what was expected.

The two left the dinosaurs far behind in the dust, and upgraded themselves to central ministers and cabinet members in the disengagement government.

Who will remind them that prior to the closing of the polling stations they yearned apologetically for the Environment Ministry as the pinnacle of their ambitions? Really.

Nevertheless, yesterday's revolution at Labor's central committee currently remains only a local concept. Pines-Paz and Herzog ran and won a popularity race. If the committee were asked to choose a party leader, it is likely that neither would have taken first.

Yesterday's kind of victory could only be achieved by someone without any enemies - and there is no leader without any enemies.

The committee, in its collective, and healthy, common sense, chose to send off to Sharon's government two young horses the same age of Silvan Shalom, Tzachi Hanegbi, Danny Naveh and Tzipi Livni. Why not? To a large extent it was experienced, yet older people like Avraham Shochat, a successful finance minister in his day who still wins no small amount of public adoration, who paid the price.

The fatal blow was dealt to Matan Vilnai, the leading candidate for party leader. In his spare time as minister without portfolio - once again minister without portfolio - Vilnai will be dedicated to the rehabilitation of his standing in the struggle for party head.

Vilnai's defeat - he came in sixth in the voting - can be attributed to a large extent to the work of Ehud Barak's camp, which set a goal of eliminating the man who threatened their campaign for party leadership.