Israel’s Labor party ran its primary election on Tuesday and the emerging theme from that event was: dump the old bums. The voters kicked Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev, 68, to the ninth spot on a slate that all the polls to date have predicted will get between 5 and 6 seats in the November 1 elections. Barlev came in first, behind Chairperson Merav Michaeli, in the last primaries. Needless to say, his performance in charge of the Israel Police, Border Guard, the Shin Bet, and the Israel Prison Service has not been stellar. We told you so countless times, but we’re a right-wing American paper – now his own people kicked him down list. And Nahman Shai, 75, head of the fictitious Diaspora Ministry, will never carry out his ambitious mission to pump cash into the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel. The Labor voters stuck him in 17th place.
On Wednesday, the Likud party is having its primaries, stay tuned.
The big winners on Tuesday were MKs Naama Lazimi, 36, a member of Peace Now, and a feminist and LGBTQ activist; and Gilad Kariv, 49, the former head of the Reform movement in Israel and Chair of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee. The Labor voters clearly wanted to get rid of the old guard on Tuesday (Michaeli is 56). Fourth on the list is MK Efrat Rayten, 50, actress, lawyer, and chair of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee. In fifth place: MK Ram Shefa, 37, a transplant from the Blue & White party, and the former head of the National Union of Israeli Students – if that’s not young, I don’t know what young is. In the sixth, and probably the last realistic spot: MK Emilie Moatti, 42, head of the permanent Knesset mission to the European Parliament.
MK Ibtisam Mara’ana, the only Muslim in the top 10, caused some embarrassment to the party when a 2013 post of hers was discovered where she confessed she does not stand still for the duration of the siren on Memorial Day. She will probably not grace the plenum with her presence in the 25th Knesset.
But the 7th spot features an unusual candidate, Yair “Yaya” Fink, 38, who is a leftist religious man from the religious kibbutz movement who has headed several endeavors to create an understanding between religious and secular Jews in Israel. He is also the only candidate in an almost-realistic spot on the list who is not already an MK. If Labor recaptures the 7 mandates it received in the last election, we may be treated to some interesting stuff from this man.
These Labor primaries, for chairperson and then rank & file candidates, are the first in recent memory where the party members did not behead the party chief but instead gave her another term – probably because she got the party into the coalition government, where it hasn’t warmed its feet in some time.
Tuesday’s results were counted based on the zipper system, girl-boy-girl boy, starting in the second slot. But the women did well anyway, without this device – although the 39,548 registered party members are 48% women, 52% men. Only 57% of eligible voters participated – not a great sign for the future. Especially since all you had to do to vote was download an app and click your choices.
The Labor primaries were followed with intense interest by Meretz, which is struggling to stay above the 3.25% threshold vote in the polls. Meretz would love to forge a left-wing alliance with Labor with the hope of producing a whole that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. So far, Labor appears to prefer siphoning off votes from its neighbor to the left than helping it survive.