‘We have always said that if we have the courage to change then we can do it’ (Tony Blair victory speech in 1997)

A new day, a new dawn for Israeli Labor (Havoda) party with the election of its new chairman, Isaac Herzog, the son of former president Haim Herzog. Ten months ago I wrote this post on whether we can see ‘New Labour’ in Israel:

Labour has a serious vacuum of leadership, which led the party to become the 4th biggest party in 2009 and now just the 3rd biggest party. Since Barak resigned in 2001, the party had 7 different chairmen, none of them managed to stop the votes going to other left and centre-left parties and the party’s status been eroded by joining almost every coalition that was formed in Israel.

Is Herzog who is also nicknamed ‘Buji’ the best that Labor has to offer? probably yes. He served in different ministerial positions and has rich parliamentary experience. His political opinions appeal to many traditional Labor voters and those who deserted the party, and unlike Yachimovich, he won’t be afraid to campaign publicly on the two-state solution alongside a socio-economical platform.

However, Herzog is not seen by the wide public as a charismatic leader and that’s his main achilles heel. He will probably have enough time until the next elections and what he needs to do is to repair the party’s image , present its traditional core values and make sure it is electable so it can return to power.

Herzog rightly speaks about the ‘golden mean’, finding the way to unite the public by serious leadership. He understands that Labor needs to provide an attractive alternative to the voters, and this can be done not by lurching furhter to the left, but by capturing the middle ground, that’s the lesson that Tony Blair understood.

While I don’t see Herzog as an Israeli Blair, I feel that he brings optimism to the Labor Party and it will be the next months that will define his leadership. He needs to bring together members who left the party and those who didn’t see it relevant. A serious party reform is due and a policy review is essential. Herzog can’t waste any moment on celebrations, he has a lot of work to do.

It is time that Israeli Labor party will define a better alternative to the current government who is not popular with the Israeli public. Buji’s should be bold and ruthless in his decision-making and policy formation. By doing that he will position himself not only as a serious party chairman but also as a credible PM in the next elections.