‘Center-left Ready to Sacrifice Values to Replace Netanyahu,’ Says Labor Party Leader

Merav Michaeli said she wasn't treated enough 'like a Messiah,' while fellow left-winger Nitzan Horowitz hits at Labor party for being ashamed of its Arab candidate

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Labor party leader Merav Michaeli at the Haaretz Conference, yesterday.
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli at the Haaretz Conference, yesterday.

The Labor party “will not be the obstacle to a coalition replacing Netanyahu,” even if such a government is formed by right-wing leaders Gideon Sa’ar or Naftali Bennett, the new chairwoman of the Labor party Merav Michaeli told the online Haaretz Conference on Democracy on Wednesday.

“Is it my dream coalition? Very far from it,” she said, in conversation with Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn. “I want a strong, robust center-left coalition that will truly change policy in a deep way.”

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Michaeli said the center-left camp has become addicted to “messiahs and saviors,” while some members were "willing to sacrifice all their values just for the chance, even if it’s slim, of replacing Netanyahu.”

“People who think that Sa’ar represents really dangerous things, are still willing to consider voting for him.” When she was asked if she has been treated since she was elected chairwoman as a Messiah, Michaeli answered: “Not enough. I am the Messiah-savior of the Labor party, but am still not seen as one for Israel.”

Talking about future of Israel, she insisted on her commitment to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that there was a need to “set a border for the State of Israel.” 

She also said that one of the dangers facing Israel today is the creation of semi-autonomous entities in the Haredi and Arab communities. “There is a feeling that parts are moving away from one another, instead of connecting,” said Michaeli.

The Meretz party slate during a rally in Tel-Aviv, last month.Credit:

Meanwhile, Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, attacked Michaeli's party at the conference, saying Labor was ashamed of its Arab candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana and was hiding her. The Central Elections Committee “barred her candidacy and she appeared there to defend herself. She sat there by herself, with her lawyer. No one else from her party came with her, no one supported her,” said Horowitz.

In an interview with Haaretz journalist Noa Landau, Horowitz said that among the first five candidates on the Meretz Knesset slate are two Arabs. The party is going for Jewish-Arab cooperation, “and it is not just that we aren’t embarrassed by it, we are proud of it, we are highlighting it,” he said. In Meretz, “no one has sent letters and asked that the Arab candidates withdraw because it is hurting the party.”

Horowitz said that as opposed to Labor, Meretz can be trusted “not to sell out its ideology.” He mentioned the promise of former Labor chairman Amir Peretz not to join a government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Peretz “shaved his mustache in order to say he wouldn’t sit with Netanyahu. Nu … and …?”  Horowitz said that any leftist who wants for their left-wing views to be heard in the Knesset: Social justice, the fight against religious coercion and against the occupation – “Meretz is their voice.”

Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken said that the political camp committed to human rights, equality and rule of law has no chance of creating a majority and forming a government. “The coronavirus pandemic did not lead to major political changes, and not to the complete downfall of Donald Trump and the Republican Party in the elections in the United States either.”

Amos Shocken speaking during a demonstration against the nation-state law in Tel Aviv in 2018.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Schocken said the Nation-State Law has brought Israel farther from its definition as a Jewish and democratic country, and brought it closer to the description of “excluding its non-Jewish citizens and marking them as enemies from within. The fruits of this poisoned tree of the Nation-State Law have been harvested by the right, when the delegitimization of the Palestinian minority prevented the change of government with the support of the Joint List,” he added.

Schocken noted two responses of different groups in the Arab community, which both serve the anti-democratic right: “On the one hand there is apathy and a movement away from politics, and on the other side is a willingness to actually do business with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

There are growing signs of the influence of political affinity and foreign interests in the actions of government institutions in Israel, said Schocken. This reality, along with the continuation of the occupation and apartheid in the Palestinian territories, “requires formulating a convincing democratic vision that will be adopted by the majority of the Israeli public.”

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