Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog has confirmed that he is not opposed to the idea of turning the upcoming primaries into open primaries, enabling Tzipi Livni and possibly also Moshe Ya’alon, who are not members of the Labor Party, to appear on the ballot. Former PM Ehud Barak could also throw his hat in the ring, although most observers believe he will support either Livni or Ya’alon, understanding that he has no chance of being number one.
Livni, leader of the Hatnuah (The Movement) party, is currently the co-chairman of the Zionist Union an ad-hoc joint list comprising the Hatnuah faction and the Labor Party. Livni, a scion of a leading Revisionist Zionist family, served as a Likud Party MK from 199-2005 but split left the party to join then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Kadima Party. After serving as foreign minister under Sharon and Ehud Olmert, formed the Hatnuah party in 2013 and agreed to form a joint list with Labor in 2015.
Ya’alon, a fomer IDF chief of staff who served as defense minister from 2013-2016, quit the Likud last year to form his own party, has his roots in Labor. He is still a member of Kibbutz Grofit. Barak and Herzog have both discussed with him the possibility of taking over as Labor leader. He has declined in the past, but his recent confirmation that he is reentering politics and sees himself as a contender for prime minister could place him in line to challenge for the Labor Party top spot.
A senior party source with close ties to both Barak and Ya’alon told TPS that Ya’alon declined the offer in the past because he felt Labor had moved too far left. “He and Barak discussed this possibility, but Ya’alon said that as long as Labor is dominated by its left wing, he could not join it, despite the fact that on all economic and social issues he identifies with the party’s social democratic ideals.”
However, in recent months the party’s more centrist pragmatic wing has won several victories. New Secretary-General Eran Hermoni was Barak’s former political adviser. The party is expected to appoint Haim Assa, Yitzhak Rabin’s national security advisor, as the new chairman of the party’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The committee’s leadership will also include one of late Defense Minister Binyamin (Fuad) Ben Eliezer’s close advisers and confidantes. Both are strongly identified with Labor’s centrist wing, and are willing to examine alternatives to the two state solution, as they agree that while the two state proposition may not be dead, it is currently in deep hibernation.
“If the new Foreign Affairs Committee succeeds in pushing the party to a more pragmatic position, is willing to examine alternatives being proposed by groups such as the Movement for a Federal Israel and the Two States-One Homeland initiative, Ya’alon could reconsider,” said the source.
For the past several months, Livni has been lobbying for open primaries to enable the election of a single leader of the Zionist Union, enabling it to be the core of a larger center-left block. However as she has never been a member of Labor, she can only run if the party agrees to hold open primaries. At the moment, only registered members can vote in the party’s internal elections.
By: Yoni Ariel