Herzog Gets Heckled, but Wins Delay of Labor Party Leadership Contest

Party votes to hold election in July 2017, in a big win for Herzog, who decided to forgo his speech after being booed by members of the audience.

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog at his party's convention in Tel Aviv, July 31,2016.
Motti Milrod

The Labor Party convention voted to postpone its primary until July 2017 on Sunday, in a hard-won victory for Chairman Isaac Herzog over rivals Shelly Yacimovich and Erel Margalit.

"There is a sharp and clear decision here," Herzog said. "Party members who had to choose between a vote of confidence in my path or that of Yacimovich and Margalit have chosen mine."

"This is a vote of confidence, our path has won," Herzog said of his 750 to 402 vote victory. 

The Tel Aviv convention got off to a raucous start, with Herzog greeted with boos and calls to "go home" by some in the audience, prompting him to forgo his speech.

Pictures of Herzog alongside the authoritarian leaders of Turkey and Russia distributed at the convention prompted party secretary general Hilik Bar to declare that anyone who compares Herzog to Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdogan should leave the party.

There were even those who goaded Herzog by brandishing pictures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a reminder of contacts that Herzog had with the prime minister in recent months to explore Labor's joining the coalition government.

After Herzog chose not to deliver his speech, voting was carried out on the timing of the next election for party leader, by secret ballot.

The decision regarding the secret ballot came on Friday when an internal Labor Party judicial body granted petitions by two challengers to Herzog, lawmakers Erel Margalit and Shelly Yacimovich, who believe that a secret ballot would help their candidacies.

In recent months, the party had tried unsuccessfully to reach a consensus on a date for party leader. With the support of Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn, Herzog is seeking to have the election held next July,, while Margalit and Yacimovich want it held in December.

The issue of the date was therefore the issue resolved by Sunday's vote. 

Responding to Yacimovich's opposition to holding the vote in July, Herzog said: "I have major complaints regarding Shelly's conduct. Her violent and harsh line and that of Margalit are making people break accepted internal party norms of conduct."

Then in reference to criticism by Yacimovich over his past contacts about entering the current government coalition, in which she allegedly called the Labor Party leader a dog, he added:

"Criticism is legitimate, but be careful with your words. If there had been an agreement with Netanyahu, I would have brought it to the convention [for a vote]. The entire leadership of the party received briefings from me, but this conduct is insufferable."

Yacimovich then shot back: "Herzog's threats to expel party members are disgraceful and the crying and moaning over the booing that he sustained are anything but leadership."

"Today on stage, for the thousandth time, Herzog again lamented the fact that he was allegedly called a dog. In practice, he himself uses the word 'dog' a hundred times a day even though in reality it was never said about him. This is a desperate attempt to win empathy through pity, but whining doesn't build leadership."