(June 4, 2019 / Israel Hayom) Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is close to making a final decision on whether he will run for the leadership of the Labor Party.
Over the past 24 hours, Barak has spoken with a number of senior party officials to ascertain his chances of once again taking over as leader the party he previously abandoned.
According to Israeli daily Israel Hayom, current Labor chairman Avi Gabbay is involved in Barak’s efforts, and should Barak ultimately decide to run, Gabbay will support his candidacy. Should Gabbay remain in politics, he could serve as No. 2 on the party list. Barak is reported to be contemplating running following pressure from party activists in the field.
On Tuesday, Labor party leaders were set to convene to authorize the agenda for the Labor conference that will set the date for the party’s internal elections. It is believed that in order to enable Barak’s candidacy, Gabbay will have the party hold elections among conference members only, and not among registered party members as is commonly accepted.
Ever since the dissolution of the Knesset last week and the announcement there would be new elections, Barak has been working diligently on the ground. These efforts have significantly increased in the past 24 hours, ahead of a possible final decision he is apparently set to make in the coming days.
Barak’s people, who say he has clear intentions of running, spoke with a large number of central activists, heads of local Labor branches and leading figures in various sectors, including in kibbutzim and moshavim, as well as representatives from the Histadrut labor federation, to ascertain his chances of becoming party leader. Similar messages regarding Barak’s planned run were also relayed to the senior party leadership, among them Gabbay. A Barak candidacy would allow Gabbay to withdraw as party leader with his dignity relatively intact, and spare himself the humiliation he would likely otherwise face from his staunch Labor party rivals in the Knesset.
On Monday, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that Barak was contemplating running on an independent list. Barak has at his disposal the Independence party he established when he split from Labor in 2012. It should be noted that despite the many meetings he has attended on the subject, Barak has yet to tell anyone he has made a final decision on the matter. Should he announce he is running, the fight over Labor leadership is expected to once again be between Barak and fellow former Labor leader Amir Peretz, who has already announced he is running for the role. The assessment is that in such a case, Labor Knesset member Stav Shafir, considered to be a Barak supporter, will not run for party leader and will instead throw her support behind the former prime minister.
Before Gabbay was informed of Barak’s plan on Monday, the Labor chairman called former deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan to inform him that should he be interested in joining Labor, he would be able to do so, after he leads party leadership in shortening the eligibility period for party candidacy. Should Barak run, he intends to set up a wider array of names and candidates, Golan among them, which he believes will allow him to lead the left-wing bloc against the Likud. A future alliance with the Blue and White party is also on the table from his perspective.
Meanwhile, MK Tal Russo has decided to cede his reserved No. 2 slot on the Labor party list and made clear he is considering running in the upcoming elections for party head. In a letter sent to Labor leadership, Russo wrote, “I came to the party and entered politics in the hope of changing and influencing, not to adhere to a political seat. Following the dissolution of the Knesset and the decision to hold repeat elections, I cede my place as No. 2 in the party and will consider running for the role of party chair.”
Responding to Russo’s letter on Twitter, Gabbay said, “I have met many people in politics, and Tal is one of the most impressive. An honest man who only has the best interests of the state at heart.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.