Labor finalizes list of candidates for July leadership primary
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Labor finalizes list of candidates for July leadership primary

Current party chairman Isaac Herzog will compete against a crowded field of 8 other contenders, including ex-head Amir Peretz

Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog (R) an MK Hilik Bar visit at the Labor primary elections headquarters in Holon on January 11, 2015. (Flash90)
Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog (R) an MK Hilik Bar visit at the Labor primary elections headquarters in Holon on January 11, 2015. (Flash90)

The Labor Party on Thursday announced its final list of candidates for the party’s leadership primaries set to be held in July.

Labor, which along with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party comprises the opposition Zionist Union faction, will field a crowded slate of nine candidates for the upcoming primary: current party chairman Isaac Herzog, former party leader and current MK Amir Peretz, MK Erel Margalit, MK Omer Barlev, former environmental minister Avi Gabbay, former IDF general Amiram Levin, Hod Krovi, Ono Academic College Prof. Avner Ben-Zaken and ultra-Orthodox activist Dina Dayan.

In the lead-up to the announcement of the list of candidates, a number of lawmakers in the party lined up to throw their weight behind various candidates.

In a post on her Facebook account, MK Ayelet Nahmias Verbin wrote that she would support Herzog since “he is only one who can build a large centrist bloc” capable of winning the elections.

“Israel needs people like Herzog who are able to see the big picture and create shared steps and alliances that will allow us to defeat Netanyahu,” she wrote.

Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog attends the party conference in Tel Aviv on December 11, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Labor Party Chairman Isaac Herzog attends the party conference in Tel Aviv on December 11, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A Channel 2 survey broadcast Saturday gave the Zionist Union 12 seats if elections were to be held now, half of its current 24 and far behind the ruling Likud party’s 28 projected seats.

The Labor primaries, which will take place on July 4, were originally scheduled for July 3, but were pushed back a day so as not to conflict with a Britney Spears concert in Tel Aviv, with party leaders fearing that heavy traffic would likely congest parts of the city and interfere with voter turnout.

MK Amir Peretz arrives to a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset on March 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Amir Peretz arrives to a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset on March 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

If no candidate passes the 40 percent threshold, a runoff vote will be held on July 13.

Since 1995, Labor has had a new chairman at an average of nearly once every two years and if Herzog were to lose it would mark an astonishing eleventh change of leadership in two decades

After Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, Shimon Peres succeeded him. Peres was replaced by Ehud Barak in 1997 after losing the general election the year before to Benjamin Netanyahu. Barak was replaced by Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in 2001 after Barak’s election loss to Likud’s Ariel Sharon. Amram Mitzna defeated Ben-Eliezer for party leader in 2002, but was himself soon replaced by Peres after losing to Sharon’s Likud in 2003. Amir Peretz defeated Peres for the party leadership in 2005, then lost to a reinvigorated Barak in 2007. Barak abandoned the party in 2011, triggering a leadership race won by Shelly Yachimovich, who then lost the top spot just two years later to Herzog.

Herzog fared better than many of his predecessors, garnering 24 seats in the 2015 elections as head of the Zionist Union — a center-left merger of Labor and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party. But despite the relatively strong showing, he was still roundly beaten by Netanyahu’s center-right Likud, which won 30 seats.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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