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Labour members approve joining new government

What happened: The Israeli Labour party’s central committee has voted in favour of joining the Likud-Blue and White unity government.

  • In an online vote on Sunday, Labour leader Amir Peretz won 64.2 per cent support for his proposal by a vote of 2,248 to 1,219.
  • Last night Peretz declared, “We won sweeping backing from party members to … change the government’s agenda and economic policy to a democratic socialist one … we are not joining a right-wing government.  We are joining an egalitarian unity government with a rotating premiership. Our strategic cooperation with Benny Gantz will return Labour to its place as a leading and influential political movement.”
  • On Friday Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Peretz signed an agreement for the Labour Party to serve as part of Blue and White in the coalition and join a government (initially) led by Netanyahu.
  • According to the agreement, Peretz will serve as economy and industry minister, whereas Itzik Shmuli will serve as welfare and social services minister. Peretz will be a member of the socio-economic cabinet, and the Labour Party will have a representative on the ministerial committee dealing with the coronavirus crisis and a member on the national reconciliation cabinet.
  • However, the third Labour MK, Merav Michaeli, campaigned against joining the government. After the vote she accused Peretz and Shmuli of perpetrating the “worst act of political theft, stealing the votes of the Israelis who elected them.” She called the coalition agreement “an embarrassing collection of lies and distortions.”
  • Gantz congratulated Peretz last night saying that he and his fellow Labour party members have demonstrated national responsibility during one of the most severe medical, financial and social crises the State of Israel has known.

Context: In the March election, Labour ran alongside Meretz and Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party. Together they won seven Knesset seats. Levy-Abekasis aroused anger when a week after the election she split and joined the Likud bloc. Now only the three Meretz MKs remain part of the opposition.

  • Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the Meretz party called for Labour activists to join his party, saying it “won’t turn its back on you and won’t betray your trust.” Horowitz accused Peretz and Shmuli of “humiliatingly and dishonourably burying the Labour party and crawling to a criminal defendant to receive jobs on the margins of the most bloated and corrupt government in the history of the state.”
  • The Labour-Blue and White agreement obligates the Labour ministers to vote with the coalition on all bills and resolutions, including any decision to annex parts of the West Bank.
  • The agreement also commits the state to provide financial aid to same-sex couples incurring surrogacy costs overseas, and that the Welfare Ministry will look into simplifying the surrogacy process. This proposal is likely to be met with staunch opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties.
  • Ahead of the September 2019 election Peretz shaved his iconic moustache for the first time in 47 years to make an election pledge, “Now everybody can read my lips, I will never to join a Netanyahu-led government.”

Looking ahead: MK Merav Michaeli said she would appeal the decision at the Supreme Court, and that she would make a decision on her political future after the ruling is issued.

  • The Labour party dominated Israeli politics for the country’s first three decades, but has now fallen to a historic low of three seats. Polling suggests that in the next election they may not reach the electoral threshold.

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