Peretz vs. Gabbay: Old news vs. hot news
Analysis: The two Labor finalists have one thing in common—their Mizrahi descent. In any other aspect, they are very different. Amir Peretz’s advantage, as well as his weakness, is his rich political experience. Avi Gabby is Peretz’s mirror image: New, fresh and inexperienced.
Between the first and second voting rounds, the Labor Party is entering a six-day war. Each of the two finalists will try to get his rivals from the first round to join his camp. None of those rivals will declare their support voluntarily. There is unfinished business; there are aspirations. Peretz’s advantage is his rich political experience. That’s also his weakness: In his many years in politics, he has gained quite a few enemies. Gabby is Peretz’s mirror image: New, fresh and inexperienced.
As these elections have proved, however, the candidates—maybe apart from Peretz—have no camps within the party who vote according to orders received from above. Perhaps because of its weakness, perhaps because of its unattractiveness, the Labor Party can afford to hold free, clean and democratic elections.
Peretz is five points ahead of Gabbay. That’s a significant advantage. But Gabbay has momentum. Peretz is old news—Gabbay is hot news. The media will celebrate with him until he becomes old news.
Peretz has proven in the past that he is capable of reaching some right-wing voters in the development towns. This breakthrough, however, had limited power. It didn’t win elections.
Gabbay’s potential hasn’t been tested yet. Allegedly, he is very promising: He has something to offer Yair Lapid’s voters, Moshe Kahlon’s voters and Likud voters who have had enough of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Like French President Emmanuel Macron, he is attractive because he isn’t part of the existing system. He hasn’t made unpopular compromises, he hasn’t been involved in personal and public affairs and he hasn’t broken promises.
But the elections in Israel are far, and if Gabbay is elected, the other parties may have an interest in postponing the elections even more. Israel is a country that wears out its politicians. By the time the elections arrive, he may become old news. He will have to make his choices, left or right, and the elections will drive voters away. The fact that he isn’t a Knesset member—which means someone else will receive the title of opposition leader and the aura provided by the Shin Bet bodyguards—won’t contribute to his success.
Isaac Herzog suffered a serious defeat Tuesday evening. He didn’t lose his chances during the race, but rather in the weak and winding path he has taken since the general elections. He failed to provide his party with charisma and leadership. What he doesn’t have, he doesn’t have. Nevertheless, he is a skilled politician who knows how to build bridges. Labor needs people like that.
The Labor Party’s pavilion at the Tel Aviv Convention Center was located at the end of the compound. Only a few dozen activists waited for the results, mostly Gabbay’s young supporters. The wretchedness was all over the place, but in the current era of uncertainty, today’s wretchedness could turn into tomorrow’s success. Everything is unpredictable and every person is free to choose his own way.