Tomorrow is the second and decisive round in the primary election for a new Israeli Labor Party leader -- and, as the finishing line approaches, Ehud Barak is looking stronger than Ami Ayalon. A popular MK, Shelly Yachimovich, has defected from the Amir Peretz alliance with Ayalon to support Barak. She told Israel radio this morning that neither candidate was good on social issues, but Barak was the least bad option. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but the labor unions (bizarrely!) are mobilizing for Barak and even Prime Minister Olmert's office is spinning in his favor.
Israel's Channel 10 News ran a last minute poll giving Barak 46 percent compared to Ayalon's 39. It will be tight tomorrow, but a legacy of scorched earth policies when it comes to the peace process and the Labor Party does not seem to be preventing Barak's return to the limelight. As I mentioned in previous posts, this has everything to do with vote contractors and nothing to do with popularity. Israel Channel Two's effervescent political correspondent, Rina Mazliach put it thus: "everywhere where the vote is free and by individual choice, and not organized blocs of bought voters, Barak loses."
Barak has run on two issues, one questionable, the other just plain scary: First, that Barak is the only one who can beat Netanyahu in a general election. On this, the pollsters would beg to differ, as surveys find that Ayalon does significantly better than Barak. Second, that Barak is the experienced leader needed for war. Uh, OK... but that kinda suggests his approach to conflict is 'bring-it-on' rather than 'prevent it.' That troubled and troubling Olmert chap suddenly seems rather reasonable in comparison!