Labor Primaries / Labor's Third Generation

The Teldor firm's computers, which every few years analyze the voting of Labor Party members, produced yesterday morning after a hard night's work, a fresh list of high quality, though a bit unripe.

This is a list of Labor's third generation: Peres the dinosaur is with Kadima; Ben-Eliezer, Vilnai and Sneh got pushed to the bottom of the top 10 and beginning of the second 10, and their place was taken by Ayalon, Braverman and Yachimovich, who lack parliamentary and ministerial experience, and Herzog, Pines-Paz and Tamir, who have less than four years' government service between them - a statistical margin of error in Peres terms - and four years less than their leader, Amir Peretz, has racked up to date.

It's a team of cadets, one senior Laborite said yesterday, but who knows? Sometimes cadets wind up beating their officers in a soccer game.

This is the week of Amir Peretz. The polls coming out at the end of this week will apparently show his party rising somewhat (it doesn't have much room to drop any more). Next week he will convene a festive conference, where he might invite Ehud Barak to join the list, or the team surrounding him.

Peretz's people recently concluded they are better off with Barak inside than out. At question is the price: Barak's representatives, Avraham (Beiga) Shochat and Shalom Shimhon, have talked and are talking with Peretz's representative, Uzi Baram, about the terms of the deal: Barak as number two or three, with the promise of a senior ministry in a government under Peretz or Olmert.

In the past, there has also been discussion of a strategic partnership, something Barak described as "a Shamir-Rabin partnership": loyalty of number two to number one, transparency, openness and fairness. In return, Peretz wants Barak not to challenge him after the elections.

Until the conference on Sunday, the matter will be resolved, one way or the other, and then the campaign will officially begin and the polls will talk. If after all the hoopla Labor does not start climbing in the polls, at least to the 21 or 22 seats it has in the current Knesset, then God help it, and Peretz.

It's a left-wing list. Peretz, Ayalon, Pines-Paz, Tamir and Yachimovich have a clear identity, even if in coming weeks they follow campaign discipline and try to play it down. This is good news for Israeli voters, who have a choice of three parties from different parts of the spectrum politically and economically: right-wing Likud, centrist Kadima and left-wing Labor.

These differences will shortly become blurred because Likud under Netanyahu will move to the center, as will Labor under Peretz. The center is where the seats are.

Peretz has a problem with the Russian vote. Likud has Sharansky and Edelstein; Kadima has Solodkin and Nudelman, while Labor has, in the iffy 21st slot, Leon Litinsky, who isn't exactly popular with Russian voters. Peretz's consultants will be working on ways to win over immigrants from the former Soviet Union.