Soon to be former head of Zionist Camp/Labor Yitzchak Herzog will in the coming days announce whom he supports to take his place as party chairman, he said in a statement Tuesday night after the results of the party primary were announced. The night’s big winner was Amir Peretz, who received a third of the votes, followed by Avi Gabay, with 27 percent. Herzog finished third with just 16.7 percent of the vote, and was hotly trailed by MK Erel Margalit, who got 16.1 percent.
In a social media post, Herzog said that he “respects the decision of party members. I congratulate the two winners who will be entering a runoff and wish them both success. I will consult with my friends in our party in the coming days and announce whom I will support.” Herzog added that he was thankful for the support he had received, and that he was “sorry about the results – personally, politically and ideologically.”
That last point could be a sticky one for the party should Peretz win. Peretz is now seen as the favorite in the runoff, and party insiders told Channel Two that his combative style was what party rank and file were seeking now, given the deterioration of Zionist Camp’s position in the polls, with many showing the party garnering barely 10 seats in new elections. Peretz is the former head of the Histadrut, and has confronted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the past on numerous labor issues.
But Peretz is also seen as an old-time neo-socialist by many, the Channel Two report said, and this would sharpen the differences between PM Netanyahu and Zionist Camp. In what turned out to be a prescient speech, PM Netanyahu on Tuesday began his campaign against Peretz by pointing out what he said was the folly of the Zionist Camp front-runner’s preference for big government. PM Netanyahu said that he had “heard that Peretz spoke to economists who said that if Israel does not raise taxes, the economy will go into a deficit. The people will make up what the government spends.”
That’s the wrong approach, said PM Netanyahu. “In order to maintain economic security you must have a policy that promotes economic growth. You need more free enterprise – not completely free, but more free than not. I would like to open up our economy even more to entrepreneurs. Encouraging entrepreneurship is the great challenge of the Israeli economy,” the prime minister added.