The Labor Party and the Center

The Labor Party held its primaries last Thursday (Nov 29th) and proved once again how important it is for Israelis to become members of political parties. The highest number of votes received by any of the top 20 people on Labor’s list for the next Knesset is 21,837 votes, by Yitzhak (Buzhi) Hertzog, who is number 2 on Labor’s list, after the party leader, Shelly Yachimovitch. In contrast, the 20th person on the list, Kadima MK Nino Absedze, received 5,466 votes.

 Many Israelis feel revulsion at the idea of joining a political party and claim that politicians are, well, politicians, and therefore they want nothing to do with them. They do not realize that by joining a political party they would have the power to replace the politicians they so abhor. And thus Israelis leave the political arena clear for the few to decide the party lists. Very few parties even hold open primaries, and those that do have relatively small memberships, so that in effect, approximately 150,000-200,000 people will be deciding the identities of almost half of the legislature (the total population of Israel is approximately 7.5 million) .

These are the top 20 people on Labor’s list, following Thursday’s primary election:

Party Leader- Shelly Yachimovitch

yacimovich_shelly-sYachimovitch is a former journalist. Before entering politics in 2005, she worked for Israel’s channel 2 television.

She was elected 9th in Labor’s list and became a member of Knesset in 2006. She was elected 5th in Labor’s list in 2008 and on September 11th 2011 she won the election for party leader against Amir Peretz.

2nd place- Yitzhak (Buzhi) Hertzog

herzog_yitzhak-sHertzog has been an MK since 2003.

He has served in a number of ministerial positions: as Minister of Housing (2005), Minister of Tourism (2006-2007) and Minister of Welfare (2007-2011).

He is the son of Haim Hertzog, who was President of Israel (1983-1993).

3rd place- Amir Peretz

peretz_amir-sPeretz has been an MK since 1988. In Olmert’s government, he served as Defense Minister. He is perceived to be responsible for Israel’s shortcomings in the 2006 Lebanon war, but he has also been given credit for ordering the development of the “Iron Dome” system, which succeeded in intercepting many of the rockets fired by Hamas in Gaza at Israel during the recent conflict there. He is a resident of Sderot, one of the towns near Gaza most badly hit by Hamas, and in 1983 he was elected mayor of Sderot. From 1995-2006 he was head of the “Histadrut”, Israel’s workers’ union.

4th place- Eitan Cabel

cabel_eitan-sCabel has been an MK since 1996.

He served as the party’s secretary general (2005-2009) and as a Minister without portfolio in Olmert’s government (2006).

He recently lost the election for head of the “Histadrut” (Israel’s workers union) to Ofer Eini, who has held the position since 2006.

5th place- Merav Michaeli

Merav_Michaeli_wikimedia_dafna talmon_cc by saMichaeli is a journalist and radio broadcaster. She is known for her radical views, such as calling on mothers not to send their sons to mandatory army service. She is also known as a radical feminist, who speaks only in the feminine form (the Hebrew language has feminine and masculine forms, with rules of when to use each form).

She is the big surprise of this election, having no political background, and had the fifth slot in the party’s list not been reserved for a woman, she would have been positioned tenth in the list.

(photo: wikimedia, dafna talmon, cc by sa)

6th place- Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Fouad)

beneliezer_binyamin-sBen Eliezer, nicknamed Fouad, is the oldest member on the party’s list.

He has been an MK since 1984 and served in many ministerial positions such as Housing Minister, Communications Minister, Minister of Infrastructure and Defense Minister (under Ariel Sharon).

He was also known to be on friendly terms with Egypt’s previous dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

7th place- Hilik Bar

Hilik_Bar_wikimedia_cc by saThe seventh place on the party list is reserved for the party’s secretary general, a position which Bar has filled since 2010.

He is also a member of the Jerusalem city council (as part of mayor Nir Barkat’s list) in charge of tourism and foreign relations.

(photo: wikimedia, Hilik Bar – Private collection, cc by sa)

8th place- Omer Bar-Lev

omer bar-lev_wikimedia_יוסיוס_cc by saBar-Lev is a former colonel in the IDF and is the son of Haim Bar-Lev who was the IDF’s eighth Chief of Staff. As an officer, he took part in the recapturing of Mount Hermon in 1974 and in the “Yonatan” Operation in Entebbe, when the IDF freed the passengers of a hijacked passenger plane. He was commander of Israel’s elite commando “Matkal” unit (he was replaced by Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon- see list of Likud MKs) and was later commander of the Jordan Valley’s regional brigade. He left active service in 1994 and has been involved in hi-tech since then.

(photo: wikimedia, יוסיוס, cc by sa)

9th place- Stav Shafir

stav shafir_wikimedia_Doron Havassy_cc by saShafir, born in 1985, is a journalist and one of the leaders of Israel’s social protest (the Israeli version of the “Occupy” movement). She has a BA in journalism and sociology from City University in London and has started a MA in History and Philosophy of Science in Tel Aviv University. She has been a member of an anarchists’ commune.

Had the 9th place not been reserved for a woman, she would have been positioned in the 13th place in the party list.

(photo: wikimedia, Doron Havassy, cc by sa)

10th place- Avishay Barverman

braverman_avishay-sBraverman is a Professor of economics and was President of Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva (1990-2006).

In 2005 he joined the Labor party under Amir Peretz, and in 2006 was elected to the 4th place in the party’s list. From 2008-2009 he was chairman of the Knesset’s finance committee. He was a minister without portfolio under Netanyahu until Ehud Barak left the Labor Party to form “Atzmaut” and the Labor Party left the government.

11th place- Er’el Margalit

erel margalit_public domainMargalit is founder and chairman of the international venture capital fund, JVP (Jerusalem Venture Partners), centered in Jerusalem.

(photo: public domain)

12th place- Itzik Shmuli

itzik shmuli_wikimedia_idobi_cc by saShmuli, born in 1980, was until recently chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students, the umbrella organization of the student unions in all of Israel’s colleges and universities. As head of the organization, he led the union in support of the Israeli social protest.

He has a BA in special education and is studying for an MA in public policy (Hebrew University) as well as an MA in law (Bar-Ilan University).

(photo: wikimedia, idobi, cc by sa)

13th place- Mickey Rosenthal

Mickey rosenthal_wikimedia_DMYRosenthal, born in 1955 is a journalist.

He is known for his investigative journalism programs on Israel’s channel 2 TV and channel 10.

(photo: wikimedia, DMY)

14th place- Michal Biran

Michal Biran_wikimedia_Saarfux_cc by saBiran, born in 1978, is head of the young guard in the Labor Party. From 2007-2010 she was Shelly Yachimovitch’s parliamentary assistant.

She has an MA in political science from Tel Aviv University and is writing a doctorate on pension policy.

Had the 14th place not been reserved for a woman, Biran would have been elected in the 17th place in the party list.

(photo: wikimedia, Saarfux, cc by sa)


15th place- Nachman Shay

nachman_shai-sShay is a former MK of Kadima. He is best known as the “national calmer”- during the 1992 Gulf War, when Iraq fired scud missiles at Israel in response to the American invasion, Shay was the spokesman for the IDF. After every barrage of rockets, Shay would calm people down on the radio. He was so well-liked at the time, that I remember as a child that toy stores were selling dolls of Nachman Shay, alongside dolls of Saddam Hussein. After leaving the army he was involved in the media industry. I lost some of my respect for him when I asked him once whether he does not think that media people entering politics have an unfair advantage. He answered that he does not think they have an advantage.

He has served as an MK of Kadima for one term and when it became apparent that Kadima had no future, he joined the Labor party.

16th place- Moshe Mizrachi

Moshe mizrachi_wikimedia_אבי אביבMizrachi is a former police officer. He was head of the department of investigations and intelligence, but was dismissed in 2004 for using illegal wire taps.

He left the police force in 2006 and entered local politics as a member of the Shoham city council.

(photo: wikimedia, אבי אביב)

17th place- Danny Atar

Danny atar_wikimedia_Jonathan Klinger_cc by saAtar is head of the Gilboa regional council.

He has been active in building Israel’s first Hippodrome for holding horse races.

(photo: wikimedia, Jonathan Klinger, cc by sa)

18th place- Raleb Majadla

majadele_ralev-sMajadla is a resident of Baka el-Gharbiya. He has been a member of Knesset since 2004. He is the first Arab to serve as a minister in the government (Minister of Science, Culture and Sport- 2007-2008). He drew attention in January 2012, when during a heated discussion in one of the Knesset’s committees, he made sexist remarks about Yisrael Beiteinu MK, Anastasia Michaeli, who in response poured a glass of water over his head. Michaeli was punished for this, and today announced that she would not be running for another term in office, most likely by order of her party leader, Avigdor Lieberman, who decides that party’s list.

19th place- Nadia Hilou

hilo_nadia-sHilou is the first Arab Christian woman to have served as an MK (2006-2009).

She has worked as a social worker in various organizations, and as an MK she chaired the committee for children’s rights.

She was elected to the 30th place in Labor’s list in 2008 and did not serve a second term.

20th place- Nino Absedze

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbsedze became an MK in Kadima in 2010 when Tzachi Hanegbi was convicted on corruption charges. She was born in Tblisi in Georgia and had an impressive career there as the anchor for the evening news on the Georgian national television station. She became romantically involved with the Israeli Ambassador there, after interviewing him, and returned with him to Israel in 1996. In Israel, she worked in the local Russian language media. With the decline of Kadima, she left the party, along with Nachman Shay, and joined Labor.

According to the polls published over the past week, Labor is expected to receive between 17 and 19 seats, so that Majadla, Hilou and Absedze may not be MKs after the elections.


Labor and Likud are expected to be the two major players in the upcoming general elections. Following each party’s primaries, the other party declared that an “extremist list” had been elected. Likud’s list has been joined by Moshe Feiglin who is seen to be further right than Likud’s usual stance, while Labor’s list has been joined by Merav Michaeli and Stav Shafir, who are both viewed as radical Left.

One of the basic lessons in political science teaches that voters can be put on a bell curve. The largest group of voters is in the center. This is why both Likud and Labor attempt to portray themselves as being in the “center” and the other party as being “extremist”. This is also the reason why there are so many parties being formed as “center parties” and why they have so much success: Kadima, Atzmaut (Ehud Barak’s former party), Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid’s party), “The Movement” (HaTnua, Tzipi Livni’s new party) are all examples of this.


What’s next?

 This evening (Tuesday, Dec 4th) Avigdor Lieberman is scheduled to present his party’s list. Yisrael Beiteinu does not hold primaries and the list is formed by a committee appointed and headed by Lieberman himself. Some of the list has already been reported in the media (Anastasia Michaeli, Tourism Minister Stas Misazhnikov and Deputy FM Danny Ayalon are out). I will devote a separate post to the party. According to the party’s agreement with Likud, the two lists will run together in a joint list which will include one member of Yisrael Beiteinu for every two members of Likud (in other words the list will be Netanyahu, Lieberman, Likud, Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud, Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, etc…).

 As I write this, many of the parties have not finalized their lists of candidates. Thursday night (Dec 6th) is the last time to submit party lists, which means that much of the fog of ‘political war’ will dissipate then.


* All photos are taken from the Knesset website (, unless stated otherwise.

** Information on the Labor Party members is taken from wikipedia and the Knesset website.


Read previous updates on the Israeli elections:


Rollercoaster Politics (Nov 28th, 2012)

This Sunday (11.11)- Primaries in Meretz (Nov 9th)

Naftali Bennet is the new leader of HaBayit HaYehudi (Nov 7th)

Speculation (Nov 2nd)

Updates: Likud- Yisrael Beiteinu Mega Party * More Politicians Flock to Where the Seats Are * The Race Heats Up in Habayit Hayehudi (Oct 25th)

What’s new on the Israeli election front? (Oct 21st)

Israeli General Election this January (Oct 10th)

Also, this might help figure out the different Israeli parties:


Israeli Parties and Politics- Part 1

Israeli Parties and Politics- Part 2



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