By Tal Schneider, Noga Tarnopolsky
The Labor party refreshed itself fairly dramatically yesterday, with leader Yitzhak Herzog standing stalwart at the top of an impressive and appealing team.
Possibly for the first time in Israel’s history, women have taken three out of the top five slots. This fact itself has had a significant impact, as voters see Tzipi Livni, the former justice minister, (whose #2 position was guaranteed when she joined forces with Herzog,) former party leader Shelly Yachimovich, and the party standout, the stunningly impressive, social issues-minded redhead Stav Shafir, who is not yet 30, lead the party toward elections.
This is nothing to sneeze at, and for Herzog, it spells the second public success of the electoral season, after the union with Livni that propelled him into the rung of prime ministerial possibles.
As for the rest of the list, its a mixed bag of old and new. In its initial attack, the Likud focused on a single candidate who made it to an almost-certain spot for the Knesset: Zuheir Bahaloul, the much loved veteran radio sports announcer (in Hebrew) and political journalist (in Arabic.) When firebrand MK Haneen Zoabi joined the infamous Gaza flotilla, Bahaloul dared to address her with a standard Arabic-language greeting, “may God protect you,” an utterly banal instant the Likud seems intent to fixate on, which he almost surely regrets.
Labor, it has to be said, does not seem much bothered by this entirely predictable critique. Their primary day started and ended flawlessly, clicking along like a Swiss watch, and this, in Israel, is an achievement worthy of note. Herzog succeeded in shining through an inordinately taxing day. Primary campaigning was interrupted twice: first, by the determined, uncomprmising and at times poetic eulogy he delivered at the state funeral held for four victims of the terrorist attack at Hyper Cacher, the kosher supermarket in Paris. Second, bilateral meetings held with Spain’s foreign minister, here on a state visit that was planned much before these primaries.
Tonight Labor will be partying, and, on the other end of the spectrum, Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home, that till now has run a spectacularly adept if politically extremist campaign, will start counting the results of their primary election (yes, its happening today.)