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Labor Party Report Blames Key Officials for Election Loss

September 19, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Former Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who served as chairman of the Labor Party’s election campaign, came in for the lion’s share of the blame in a report published this week on former Prime Minister Shimon Peres’ failure to win Israel’s national elections.

The report by former Knesset Speaker Shevach Weiss also pilloried former Police Minister Moshe Shahal, who served as head of the organization staff in the campaign, and Meir Nitzan, mayor of Rishon le-Zion, who was head of the election day staff.

Had the arrangements for election day itself been planned properly and executed effectively, Weiss wrote, Peres might well have been prime minister today.

Peres lost the May 29 election to the Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu by less than 30,000 votes.

Peres, who now serves as leader of the opposition, came in for less criticism from Weiss than had been anticipated — as did the two leading contenders for the Labor Party leadership: former Foreign Minister Ehud Barak and former Interior Minister Haim Ramon.

Barak served as head of Peres’ personal staff in the election campaign, while Ramon held the pivotal post of head of advertising.

Weiss faulted Peres for setting up competing and uncoordinated staffs, which failed to interact fruitfully.

The appointments, Weiss hinted, stemmed from personal and political considerations rather than from the sole legitimate consideration: how to ensure an effective campaign.

Weiss, a professor of political science, agreed in his report with the widely held criticism of Ramon — and obliquely of Peres — for their decision not to dwell on Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in their campaign ads.

The chairman of the campaign, Ben-Eliezer, failed to function like the conductor of an orchestra, the report added.

Weiss also charged that key campaign figures grew complacent, that worrisome internal polls failed to ring alarm bells and that the nuts-and-bolts organization failed to function properly.

On election day itself, the report said, potential voters were not identified in sufficient numbers, were not canvassed with sufficient energy and were not ferried to polling stations to vote.

As for Barak’s personal staff, Weiss said it was superfluous.

A recent book on the campaign, “The Suicide,” written jointly by three political journalists and published by Ma’ariv Books, documented constant friction and dissonance between Ramon’s and Barak’s teams.

The book claimed that Barak demanded a more vigorous campaign with sharper attacks on Netanyahu than were planned in Ramon’s more low-key campaign strategy.

But all his efforts were stymied by Ramon, who regarded Barak’s interventions as designed to promote his own standing in the party and to belittle Ramon.

The book further maintained that Peres himself failed to fully recover from the trauma of the Rabin assassination and did not fight the campaign with vigor.

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