JERUSALEM (Apr. 1)
Labor Party members, voting in a U.S.-style primary Tuesday, selected a slate of candidates for the June 23 Knesset elections that represents all elements of the party.
In fact, under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin, the party seems more united than it has been in many years. Rabin defeated incumbent Shimon Peres for the office of chairman in a nationwide referendum last month.
Peres, who was voted into the No. 2 spot Tuesday, had good reason to be satisfied with the outcome, which put several of his closest supporters in high slots, assuring them of election.
A big surprise was the elevation of the dovish Avrum Burg to the No. 3 position, up from No. 21 in Labor’s outgoing Knesset delegation. Burg, son of former National Religious Party leader Yosef Burg, is part of Labor’s younger generation of rising politicians.
His presence, along with at least three other confirmed doves among the top 10 names on the Labor list, drew fire from Likud.
Rabin is “surrounded by a dovecote of Peres-supporting doves,” one Likud official claimed.
Asked to comment, Rabin said Labor in fact represents “the centrist opinion in the country” and stands on its platform.
Peres dismissed Likud taunts, asserting that the dove-hawk classification is “10 years out of date.”
Candidates identified with the former party chief or regarded as dove include Ora Namir and Haim Ramon, in fifth and sixth places respectively, and Nissim Zvilli, secretary of the moshav movement, who is No. 10.
One of Peres’ closet associates, Yossi Beilin, made the list but not among the top 20. So did peace activist Yael Dayan, who is not in the outgoing Knesset.
SETBACK FOR LEFT-WING BLOC?
About 14 or 15 of the first 40 are fresh faces. On the other hand, several prominent veterans failed to make the first 40 and are not likely to get elected unless Labor wins by a landslide.
They include former Cabinet ministers Shoshana Arbeli-Almoslino, Gad Ya’acobi and Ya’acov Tsur.
There was a heavy turnout of voters at 700 polling stations around the country. Because of an embarrassing breakdown of the electronic vote-counting system, results were not known until late Wednesday afternoon.
By then, 95 percent of the approximately 112,000 votes cast had been tallied, and Labor was mightily pleased with the results, which demonstrated solidarity in contrast to the disarray in Likud’s top ranks.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister David Levy, who announced his resignation Sunday, seemed determined to go through with it. The daily newspaper Hadashot reported Wednesday that his supporters were poised to lay down the infra-structure of a new party to participate in the June 23 elections.
The loss of even two or three seats to a Levy slate could spell defeat for Likud in a close election. Aides to Levy and Shamir are trying behind the scenes to find a way out of the deadlock.
But it is the new left-wing Meretz bloc that might lose the most from Labor’s newly found unity and dovish tilt.
Meretz, an alliance of the Citizens Rights Movement, Mapam and the Center-Shinui Movement, presently accounts for 10 Knesset seats. It had hoped to improve significantly with the support of peace-oriented voters who saw little difference between a Labor Party headed by Rabin and Likud.
But now those potential supporters might have second thoughts.
The ranking for the top 20 Labor candidates is Rabin; Peres; Burg; Binyamin Ben-Eliezer; Namir; Ramon; Micha Harish, the party’s secretary-general; Yisrael Kessar, secretary-general of Histadrut; David Libai; Zvilli; Shimon Shetreet; Uzi Baram; Rafi Ellul, mayor of Mazkeret Batya; Ori Orr, a former Israel Defense Force general and former director of the Jewish National Fund; Avraham Shohat; Shevach Weiss; Haggai Meirom; Masha Lubelsky, secretary of the women’s Labor organization Na’amat; Eli Ben-Menachem; and Nawaf Massalha.
Namir and Kessar each ran unsuccessfully last month for party chairman against Rabin.