Labor Primaries / Magician Wanted: Apply Within

The Labor Party will have a new head, but its body will remain sick; all the symptoms that led it toward the abyss, that nearly vaporized it, are still there.

Early tomorrow morning the Labor Party will elect a new party leader, the seventh in the past decade. It will be the dawn of a new day for MK Shelly Yachimovich (if she is elected ) or the dawn of an old-new day for Amir Peretz (if he is re-elected ).

The Labor Party will have a new head, but its body will remain sick. All the symptoms that led it toward the abyss, that nearly vaporized it, are still there - the back-stabbing, quarreling, lack of collegial approval and divisiveness.

peretz - Eliyahu Hershkovitz - September 21 2011
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Labor Party needs a leader who is also a magician; it needs new DNA, a new, clearly marked political map and a great deal of luck to reach the next elections as a vigorous, unified, goal-oriented party, one that will remind people of its once-glorious past.

The two candidates who have reached the home stretch, Yachimovich and Peretz, have done so in a long and seemingly Sysyphian campaign, with boundless energy and unlimited ambition. Peretz proved once again what the political arena already knew: He is an unparalleled campaigner. Like the Phoenix, he arose from the ruins of his political career after he was for all but ousted from the post of defense minister and the leadership of the party following the Second Lebanon War.

Peretz's greatest achievement in this campaign is that the Second Lebanon War was not even an issue. None of the other candidates mentioned, for example, portions of the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War, which excoriated his actions. Peretz reinvented himself, built himself a new narrative, breathed a new spirit of life and vengefulness into his supporters, who together with him had experienced the bitter taste of humiliation and ostracism.

As a politician, Peretz has not achieved much over the past four years. He was almost non-existent. His campaign - for the third time, it should be noted - made people forget this. A successful campaign, it turns out, expunges everything.

The differences between Peretz and Yachimovich are vast. Both are "social-minded" but that is where the resemblance ends. He has always been in politics. She entered the fray six years ago. She has never held an operative office, neither as a minister or even as chairwoman of an important committee.

Their work methods in the field are different: Peretz has activists going from house to house, street to street, alley to alley. Yachimovich gathered most of her supporters on the Internet and at booths on the street or by word-of-mouth.

The Labor campaign had the appearance of an all-out war; Labor stalwart MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was with Peretz, the Kibbutz Movement was with Yachimovich. The Arabs were with Peretz, the Druze, for internal reasons, were divided between the two. Mitzna is with Peretz.

But the most heated emotions are between Peretz and the man who was his deputy in the Histadrut labor federation and now heads it: Ofer Eini, who threw his support wholeheartedly behind Yachimovich. Eini seeks, longs, in fact burns, to beat Peretz. If he must do so by supporting Yachimovich, he can live with that. The main thing is to win.