Labor party voters choose old standby over up-and-comers

Labor voters chose a known quantity by electing Amir Peretz to the No. 1 spot on the party list.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Amir Peretz, 67, won the Labor party’s election on Tuesday. He will lead Labor going into September’s parliamentary elections.

Peretz won 47 percent of the vote, beating handily two younger candidates who were considered realistic contenders. Stav Shaffir finished second with 26.9 percent of the vote and Itzik Shmuli won 26.3 percent.

Ultimately, Peretz’s greater experience carried the day. Not only does he have the distinction of currently being the longest-serving member in the Knesset at over 30 years; he also held the positions of Defense Minister and secretary-general of the Histadrut, a labor union. Peretz served as Labor leader from 2004 to 2012.

Anshel Pfeffer of Ha’aretz wrote on Wednesday, “It seems that the long-suffering party members felt that appointing 30-year-olds whose experience, beyond their six years apiece as MKs, was literally as social-justice warriors was a bit too much for the party that founded Israel and ruled it for half its history. Not only have Shaffir and Shmuli no executive experience, they have never made a major statement on the core issues of diplomacy and security.”

Peretz said after his victory was announced, “This evening is a very exciting evening for me and I feel the weight of the responsibility on my shoulders. This evening should bring hope to the hearts of all peace and social justice-loving citizens, and I thank all those who supported me as well as those who supported the other candidates, Itzik Shmuli and Stav Shafir, who are an important part of the leadership of the party and its future.”

Turnout was low. Only 46 percent, or 30,000 of 65,303 eligible Labor party voters came out to the polls. Israel Hayom reported that some Labor voting stations were completely empty.

It was not clear if the reason was apathy on the part of Labor voters or road-blocking protests by the Ethiopian community over the shooting death of Salomon Tekah, 19, by an off-duty Israeli police officer a few days ago.

In solidarity with the Ethiopian community, Peretz decided not to have a victory celebration.

“I decided not to hold a celebration of the victory because of the deep social rift that is intensifying before our eyes. The protest of the Ethiopian Israelis is an expression of the longstanding feeling of discrimination that they carry with them,” Peretz said.

“Tomorrow we will carry out all the necessary actions to unite the party and turn it into a political home for every Israeli.”

Peretz will likely seek a union with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s new party in order to ensure Labor passes the electoral threshold.

Labor had its worst showing in its history in April’s election, winning only six seats. That was down from 24 when it ran on a joint list called the Zionist Union in 2015.

Labor dominated Israeli politics for decades but it gradually lost favor with Israeli voters.