Four Heads Are Better Than One

Labor has excellent young people, but they still don't have enough experience and stature to be chairman.

The Labor Party is in a clear catch after the elections: Ehud Barak has to go, but there's no one to replace him. Labor has excellent young people, but they still don't have enough experience and stature to be chairman. It's like a soccer team whose stars are past their prime and whose younger players are not yet seasoned.

No doubt the election of Ophir Pines-Paz or Isaac Herzog as Labor chairman would be a problem, because they are not perceived as national leaders. The obvious solution would be to remove Barak and elect a rotating chairmanship, or divide authority in some other way. Who should be in this leadership? It seems clear: Pines-Paz, Herzog, Eitan Cabel and Shelly Yachimovich. Each has an impressive record from the last Knesset. But in the end, the composition should be determined by a primary election.

True, that excludes Amir Peretz, Matan Vilnai, Avishay Braverman and Yuli Tamir from the senior leadership (unless they are elected and someone else is left out). That is not to say they can't be senior ministers. But they certainly are not the leaders who can rebuild the party.

If we return to the analogy of the soccer team, a move along the lines of joint leadership means bringing youth players into the big leagues. Teams usually pay for this move by dropping down the league table. But thanks to Barak, Labor doesn't have this dilemma. It will be at the bottom of the table this term anyway.

In the past, the party was led by the so-called group of eight. It included Haim Ramon, Yossi Beilin, Avraham Burg and Nissim Zvili. The party paid quite a complicated price for handing its leadership over to Gen. Barak, then to Gen. Ben-Eliezer and then to Gen. Mitzna, instead of depending on these young people. Not electing Burg to the chairmanship, for example, was a major missed opportunity. Surprisingly, Peretz was the only one of the eight who reached the top post, and he failed. But his candidacy symbolized hope and renewal like no other Labor leader has.

It is reasonable to assume that a joint leadership would require a temporary change in the party's rules. Hopefully those who seek change in Labor would have enough strength to push such change through. The elected leaders would have to agree among themselves on issues like who represents the party and in what order, and whether the temporary chairman has more than one vote.

In two more years, after building up their image, they would contend for the party chairmanship. Hopefully they would do this without too much mudslinging. Two years of joint leadership could bring back many votes to Labor. Israelis love unity, and four very talented people who work together for two years would win a great deal of admiration. Mutual recriminations would prevent this.

True, the idea of joint leadership is not very well accepted in a world where one person must be the chief and public face of every organization because that organization needs branding. But the advantages are clear: Labor will get rid of the dead weight called Barak and build the generation of the future - and quite an impressive generation it is. Not only can this idea rehabilitate the party and show it the way; it can put it back in the battle for the premiership.