Morose Labor Party Heads to Perhaps Its Last Primary

YERUSHALAYIM -
Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labor Party, casts his vote at a Labor party polling station in Tel Aviv on Monday. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A tired and discouraged Labor Party holds its primaries Monday, as panicky MKs and party activists desperately try to push themselves and their candidates to a “realistic” slot on the list – which, according to recent polls, could be limited to the first five names on the list. There are some 62,000 Labor members with voting rights in the primary who will be choosing among 44 candidates, but party officials are not expecting a particularly high turnout, given the large numbers of voters who have apparently abandoned the party.

A sign of the party’s future fortunes is evident in the breakdown of members. Of the party’s paid members, the largest contingent are members age 65 and over, who number some 24,000 members. Among Israelis 35 and under, the party is far less popular; just 12,000 people in that cohort are Labor members.

As such, candidates have been appealing as much as possible to the older members of the party, who are seen as the most likely voters. According to Yediot Acharonot, the five most popular Labor members among that group – and the five most likely to be at the top of the list – are Itzik Shmuley, Shelly Yechimovich, Steve Shapiro, Amir Peretz and Omar Bar-Lev. Party chairperson Avi Gabbay has the first slot reserved for himself, as he is the party’s candidate for prime minister.

MK Eitan Cabel. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a questionable position, according to that report, is MK Eitan Cabel, who only shows up at number eight. In an interview with the Srugim news site, Cabel said that the polls “were very troubling. That candidates who will end up fourth and fifth on the list have to be worried about getting a Knesset seat, says everything you need to know about the condition of Labor. It is inconceivable that the party that established this country will now disappear.”

If Labor survives this election, Cabel said, “we have got to conduct an honest self-examination. We have to think about where we go from here. In fact this has to be done not after the election, but before. We need to be going door to door and convincing people to vote for us.” Regarding himself, Cabel said that he didn’t pay attention to polls. “I have no idea where I am going to end up. I did the best I could and that is what is important to me.”