The Labor party’s candidate list, revealed on Friday after the previous day’s primaries, included a number of new faces and was received by the party with excitement and joy, but this quickly turned to a struggle over who would hold sway at the helm.
On Saturday night, MK Amir Peretz, third on the party's Knesset list, called on Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich to commit to a refusal to enter any coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He also called on Yachimovich to present a clear and detailed diplomatic program.
Peretz said he expected a meeting on Sunday with Yachimovich, and, if she did not manage "to convince" him of the party's intentions, he "will need to see what to do."
In an interview on Channel 2's "Meet the Press" Saturday evening, Peretz said, "With all due respect to the issue of social justice, which is very important ... I will not in any case give up on the Labor party's position as a leader in the peace camp ... we must not obscure Labor's position just so people on the Right might come out and vote for us."
Yachimovich on Friday reiterated that she would not rule out joining a new Netanyahu coalition, saying, "A scenario in which we join Netanyahu is fictional ... but to say unilaterally that it won't happen is politically stupid, and I do not mean to make such a foolish move."
On Saturday, a senior Labor official close to Yachimovich called Peretz "a tireless subversive." The same source also said, "Now, following a public demand for a meeting and a threat, there is no chance that Shelly will meet with him ... if he wants a war, he'll get a war."
MK Isaac Herzog's campaign manager said, "Labor members and party supporters are not willing to tolerate such behavior to spoil the line."
The primary results emphasized the difficult divisions that Peretz has created within Labor. Herzog was the highest scoring among Yachimovich's recommendations, for the third time in a row, and was placed second on the list. Peretz was third, followed by MK Eitan Cabel and then Merav Michaeli, in fifth place, a spot slated for a woman. MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer placed sixth.
Peretz failed, to some extent, to insert his allies onto the list. He had sought to introduce seven MKs, perhaps intending to threaten a future separation from the party. Other than Michaeli, the candidates recommended by Peretz — Sammy Sasson, Ran Hermoni, Dana Oren and Yariv Oppenheimer — all finished outside of the top 20.
Yachimovich supported Michal Biran (14th place) Omer Bar Lev (eighth place), Micky Rosenthal (13th place) and Itzik Shmuli (12th place). The main losers among Yachimovich's recommendations were MK Daniel Ben Simon and Noam Schalit, who both placed low on the list.
Yachimovich commented on the results, saying, "There is an amazing list here. In my wildest dreams I could not imagine better."
Michaeli is known for controversial statements she has made in support of draft dodging, as well as for having exposed her bra on live television. The incident occurred during a discussion about former President Moshe Katzav, who is serving a prison term after being convicted of rape and sexual assault. At the time, Michaeli said: "I show a fair amount of decolletage, but that does not mean President Katzav is allowed to rape me."