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Labor party rocked by fraud allegations, frontrunner sails on

It’s probably hard to tell from outside certain Israeli circles, but the withering Labor party has been making some considerable noise over its approaching primaries campaign. With nearly as many serious contenders for the leadership as there are Labor members in the Knesset (eight), the competition has always had a rather moribund feel to it. Now, with Channel 2 exposing that at least 10 percent of registered party members are also registered members of rival parties Kadima and Likud, and many more did not know they have joined a party, the plot is taking a distinct lurch toward the macabre.

Last night, Channel 2’s Amit Segal reported that him and his researchers sifted through over 23,000 membership forms – about half of the 50,000 new members the party boasted to have registered ahead of the primaries. His findings were dire: about 2,300 of those have registered to several parties at once – an offense punishable by a year in prison; dozens of voters in the Palestinian minority in Israel were registered through the head of a family or a clan, with his phone number on all their membership forms;  profoundly suspicious patterns (in the township of Houra, for example, 10 people voted for Labor in the last elections, but over 110 joined the party ranks this year); and many of those he called to inquire why they joined the Labor party said they signed something they didn’t understand, while others still thought he was calling them with a job offer.

None of this should come as a surprise. Labor, after all, is the farcical recurring of the tragedy of Mapai, the mega-party that ruled the state for its first three decades (boasting, alongside occasionally effective but deeply racist development drives, the Nakba, the military regime, the Suez crisis, the Occupation, and practically every endemic social wrong that has plagued Israel ever since, from the pact with the ultra-Orthodox parties through the discrimination of Mizrahim and the military cult). Wholesale registration of loyal Arab-Israeli clans, in particular, is as Labor as Rabin and Ben Gurion, as Hillel Cohen relates in exasperating detail in Good Arabs. What’s slightly bewildering is why call through all this bother for a party heading for an inevitable and overdue collapse, barring some injection of new blood in the shape of the slightly sinister National Left movement.

Another thing that stood out in the latest debacle is that just like in the embarrassing Wikileaks showdown over racist comments a few months ago, the candidates hit worse are Isaac Hertzog and Amir Peretz, while frontrunner Shelly Yachimovich comes through sparkling clean; part of me wishes she would be hit by a scandal soon as well, just for balance sake.

Incidentally, Yachimovich is disliked by some on the Left for trying to steer the party away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more toward socio-economic issues. To my mind, in some way it’s almost honest. The Labor party is responsible for both the Oslo process – a failure and a catastrophe for both Israelis and Palestinians (though, as usual, more for the latter than the former); the maximum-carnage killing of same process in 2000; and enthusiastically cow-towing every right-wing government that came to power since, until finally being unceremoniously thrown out of the current one by its own chairman. To claim this party has anything to offer on the diplomatic front is an ongoing insult to public intelligence. Not that Labor is likely to do on the socio-economic front, but at least we will be spent the “peace camp” pretense. Luckily, the chances of it gaining significant clout in the next elections are  smaller than ever before – and so is its potential to cause damage in whichever field it applies its Midas touch to.

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    1. Ben Israel

      Actually, these party primary scandals are endemic to the system. MERETZ, Likud and KADIMA also have vote contractors sign up people, particularly Arabs and Druze who would never dream of voting for the party, simply in order to push one candidate who is paying them. This is a scandal of the first order. What this means is that the people of the country have NO say in who the parties’ candidates are. I find this very frustatrating. It is time that legislation be passed regulating the primaries, making them subject to law, as in the US primary elections. Voters could chose ONE party to belong to and to vote in their primary, which would be held on a single date for everyone. The vote count would be done by state officials, as in the national elections.
      After almost every primary, the loser complains about fraud, threatens to demand a police investigation, but it never happens, because the complainer himself has used vote contractors and they don’t want that exposed.
      The one time a primary vote was overturned was in the 2001 Labor Primary which Avrum (“The Saint”) Burg one. Runner up Fuad Ben-Eliezer complained about fraud, but this time it seems everyone in the Labor Party wanted to get rid of Burg, so the results were cancelled, a revote was held and Fuad one. Burg got the message and quit politics in order to make money as an influence peddler instead.
      Welcome to the Israeli political system!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Dumb errors occur when you are writing while pressed for time. Obviously I meant Burg and Fuad WON the votes.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Shoded Yam

      This comment has been edited

      Pressed for time?!?! You mean theres someplace else you go where you bore everyone?:D
      Who’d’ve thought there’d be such a high demand for nonsensical polemics, theo-facist clap-trap, and tediously insipid anecdotes. LOL

      Reply to Comment
    4. Michael W.

      Ben Israel, ignore Shoded Yam. He’s a(n) [insert foul word].

      Reply to Comment
    5. Shoded Yam

      “…Ben Israel, ignore Shoded Yam. He’s a(n) [insert foul word].”
      Now why do you wanna’ go and spoil my fun? Everytime ben-ben posts another inanity I dine out on it for a week,:-D.
      I gotta tell ya’ mike, you’re quite the wordsmith. I see all those Mad-Lib books are really starting to pay off LOL

      Reply to Comment
    6. Dimi

      Ben Israel, of course, is quite correct. Everyone is doing it and burying what’s left of an Israeli democracy in the process. The talk I hear these days in the streets is that all the politicians are corrupt and all the parties are beyond redemption and therefore we should either a) stage our own Tahrir (ideas as to how and about what get pretty fuzzy at this stage) b) find a strong leader who’ll fire all those bums and set things right. The latter optionality is raised considerably more often.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ben Israel

      The irony is that it is in the corrupt politicians interest to have the public think they are “all corrupt” (which I don’t believe BTW) because this engenders passivity and a feeling that you can’t do anything abou it, which suits them fine, leaving things the way they are.
      Maybe the apparently successful cottage cheese boycott will energize people.
      However, it is time for the most important constitutional change that Israel could make to be implemented. Going to a constituency system for electing the Knesset. It doesn’t necessarily reduce corruption but it makes the politicians responsive to wishes of their voters, something we don’t have today. However, no one in the Knesset wants to change the current, sick proportional representation system, thus we need a much bigger cottage cheese movement to get this on the agenda.

      Reply to Comment
    8. […] move that would challenge the government. Furthermore, the fight over Labor leadership has taken the predictable ugly turn, ensuring that the winner will get a fragmented and bitter party that would make his life miserable […]

      Reply to Comment