Outcome of the Labor Primaries / A Nice List, Looking Toward the Opposition

One does not have to be endowed with particularly sharp political acumen to notice the change in tone of the Labor Party's leadership. Suddenly Ehud Barak, Isaac Herzog and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer can utter the word "opposition," without choking.

This is part of an electioneering tactic, the beginning of the "save the home" campaign designed to bring back voters that are tending to bolt to the new left party. The logic is simple: Kadima has already siphoned off Labor voters. The main threat now is from the left, and the way to avoid more slippage is by stating resolutely: We will not be part of a [Benjamin] Netanyahu government. We will go to the opposition and from there we will build up a new Labor Party. But please, give us enough votes so there will be something to rehabilitate. Meanwhile, this is just a different melody; it is not an election promise. Barak is not slamming any doors. He would prefer to leave a narrow crack, in case circumstances change.

Early Friday morning, with the results in, Labor's voters could be seen to have chosen a kind of still-life of what had been. The top places - except for former journalist Daniel Ben-Simon, in 11th place, and Dr. Einat Wilf in 14th place, not likely to get into the Knesset - are the same faces; some had moved up the list, some down.

The most prominent switch was between Shelly Yachimovich and Amir Peretz. He closed the top 10, she was in slot five. From now on, Yachimovich is not only the top-ranking woman in Labor, she is also the leader of the party's social agenda, two and a half years after she was brought in by her patron at the time, Peretz.

All in all, it is a nice list. Not revolutionary, not subversive, not too conservative. The voters wanted a young leadership, and therefore they chose Herzog, Ophir Pines-Paz and Yachimovich. They wanted an important economist, so they voted Avishay Braverman. They wanted experienced ministers and so they retained Ben-Eliezer, Matan Vilnai, and Yuli Tamir, together with Shalom Simhon. That's about it.

Herzog maintained first place for the second time in a row, after the chairman - a significant achievement that no one had managed before. At the next primary for party leader he will not make do with supporting a candidate. He will be a candidate. "I'm not a nice child any longer," he says.

All in all, it was a good week for Labor. The smooth evacuation of the House of Contention in Hebron is chalked up to Barak. As party chairman he is problematic, but as defense minister he delivered the goods. The self-critical campaign, emphasizing damage control, which Labor launched over the weekend is interesting. Labor's secretary-general MK Eitan Cabel also deserves a good word: After the computer failure, he managed to organize a successful election within 48 hours.