Labor to Move Up Primaries After Suffering Major Loss in Knesset Election

The party’s central committee will convene next month to set a date for the primaries after the party reached an all-time low, falling short of its projected 15 Knesset seats with six

Avi Gabbay at the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, Jerusalem, April 30, 2019.
Emil Salman

Israel's Labor Party will hold its primary ahead of schedule in November as proposed by its chairman Avi Gabbay, the party stated on Monday, though its relevant committee will only be convening next month to discuss the proposal.

Last month, following the blow the party took in the Knesset election on April 9, Gabbay said he would convene the party’s central committee within 45 days. Amir Peretz, a former Labor chairman and the leading candidate to be chosen again, has yet to decide if he wants to run. Shelly Yacimovich, another former-leader, has already said that she won’t be in the race.

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There is however some opposition to conducting primaries, on the grounds of image: Under usual circumstances, a party leader would be elected closer to the next Knesset election.

Under a 1973 Party Financing Law, the state provides routine funding depending on the number of existing party members in Knesset and special funding ahead of election, in addition to putting constraints on accepting donations. The special funding is provided ahead of election, and is based on the number of anticipated members to be elected. If the number falls short, the party has to return the proportional amount of money.

In the election, in which Labor won only six seats out of the 120-person Knesset, its worst-ever results, the party had based its requested special funding for a projected 15 Knesset seats. The party indebted to the state by about 4 million shekels ($1.1 million). Labor will probably have to close down some of its branches, move to more modest offices and scale back its procurement in order to reduce its debt. Sources near Gabbay say they have assessed that the debt can be repaid in three years, but the short-term goal is to stabilize the party.